Turns out, you probably can’t count on the $125 from Equifax, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Earlier this month, Equifax announced that, as part of a new settlement with the FTC, the 147 million people affected by the credit bureau’s massive data breach can file a claim for either free credit monitoring or a cash payment of up to $125. Today, FTC Assistant Director Robert Schoshinski said in a blog post that “The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming.” In other words, bad news for everyone who signed up for that $125 check. As a result of the “enormous number of claims filed,” people will get “nowhere near” $125, Schoshinski said.
That’s because Equifax only agreed to spend up to $425 million on data breach victims, with up to $31 million reserved for cash payouts. The more people who sign up for cash, the less cash there will be per person.
The agency is urging people to opt for free credit monitoring instead. The service will track your credit report and credit score for changes and help you detect whether an identity thief used your personal information to open a new line of credit in your name.
If you already submitted a claim to redeem “$125” from Equifax and would rather opt for credit monitoring instead, you must make the request in writing to the settlement administrator by email (info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com) or mail (In re: Equifax Data Breach Settlement, c/o JND Legal Administration, P.O. Box 91318, Seattle, WA 98111-9418).
However, it’s worth nothing that by signing up for Equifax credit monitoring, you are agreeing to let the company share your data with other companies.
Beyond monitoring, it’s also a good idea to freeze your credit with each reporting agency (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax), which prevents anyone from using your personal information to get loans or credit cards. Here’s how. You’ll get a very important (!) PIN that will be required to lift the freeze when someone wants to look up your credit report.
In 2017, Equifax revealed that the personal information of 147 million people — including their Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers — was stolen. Where that data ended up is largely a mystery.