A rapid influx of claims is already exhausting the $31 million fund for payouts.
It’s been a little over a week since the Federal Trade Commission reached an up to $700 million settlement with credit reporting agency Equifax for the 2017 data breach that jeopardized the sensitive personal information of nearly 147 million people. Victims were originally offered the option of free credit monitoring services or a $125 claims payout.
But the FTC announced Wednesday that due to an “overwhelming” public response, money allocated for those $125 payouts is close to becoming exhausted, so the agency is now pushing claimants to opt for the credit monitoring service instead.
“The pot of money that pays for that part of the settlement is $31 million. A large number of claims for cash instead of credit monitoring means only one thing: each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money. Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed,” FTC said. “So, if you haven’t submitted your claim yet, think about opting for the free credit monitoring instead.”
Here’s how the $575 million to $700 million settlement breaks down: $300 million to $425 million will cover credit monitoring and claims for impacted consumers; $175 million will go to 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; and $100 million in civil penalties will go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Though the FTC’s original announcement last week made no mention of the claims payouts coming from a specific—and limited—$31 million fund, the settlement makes it clear. In today’s announcement, the FTC frames the credit monitoring services as a better option that’s “frankly … worth a lot more” than the cash claims would be.
“You can still choose the cash option on the claim form, but you will be disappointed with the amount you receive and you won’t get the free credit monitoring,” the agency notes.
The credit monitoring option will provide claimants with at least four years of free credit report monitoring at Equifax, as well as the two other credit bureaus TransUnion and Experian, and $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance. They can also choose up to an additional six more years of monitoring specifically from Equifax.
The settlement also makes money available for those seriously affected to file for cash payments of up to $20,000 for any out-of-pocket expenses triggered by the breach. The agency said individuals can be compensated $25 per hour for up to 20 hours that they spent dealing with the breach—but there are also limited funds available for these claims as well, indicating that those amounts will likely be reduced.
Financial experts also speculate it would be nearly impossible to prove that one should receive the capped amount of $20,000 for their grievances.
The deadline to file claims is Jan. 22, 2020.