The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released details of its settlement agreement with Equifax concerning its 2017 data breach exposing the sensitive personal information of more than 147 million Americans. At the time, the FTC stated that people impacted were eligible for a $125 cash payment or free credit monitoring services. A week later, the FTC walked back its initial message and encouraged people to choose the credit monitoring option.
According to the FTC, because of the “large number of claims for cash instead of credit monitoring… each person who takes the money option will wind up only getting a small amount of money.” The settlement only provides for $31 million (out of $575 million) to pay those who choose to receive money instead of credit monitoring services—meaning that if all 147 million eligible people requested the $125 cash payment, they would receive roughly $0.21 each.
There are a number of next steps that you can take—starting with finding out if you were impacted by the Equifax breach and are eligible to make a settlement claim on the Equifax Breach Settlement website.
If you were impacted by this breach, you’ll need to decide if you would prefer the credit monitoring services or cash payment.
While the FTC has stated that the market value for the credit monitoring services likely exceeds $125, the value to you as an individual might be very different. A few things to consider:
- You might already have credit monitoring (bank service, settlement from another data breach, etc.).
- According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study, credit monitoring helps detect new-account fraud (opening of new unauthorized accounts), but it doesn’t prevent it or help with existing-account fraud (i.e. stolen credit card number).
- The ten years of free credit monitoring services in the settlement are limited to monitoring of your Equifax credit report (monitoring of your other two credit reports is only for four years).
- The credit monitoring service also comes with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and some identity restoration services.
Regardless of your choice of the credit monitoring services or cash payment, you can also