The Federal Trade Commission warned the public on Wednesday that people impacted by the 2017 Equifax data breach could get “far less” than the $125 payout originally promoted on the website for the Equifax settlement.
On July 22, the FTC announced that Equifax had agreed to a $575 million settlement in connection to a massive 2017 data breach at the consumer credit reporting agency. The FTC alleged that Equifax had failed to protect the personal information – including Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses — of about 147 million people.
The settlement went viral last week when the public learned that people affected by the breach had the option to receive a payout as part of the settlement. Eligible people could choose to receive free credit monitoring for up to 10 years — or a check or debit card for $125.
On Wednesday, however, the FTC issued a statement warning that people hoping for the full $125 payout may be disappointed, and encouraged people to choose the credit monitoring option instead. The FTC explained that the funds set aside for the cash payouts are capped at $31 million — and because the response to the settlement has been “overwhelming,” people are likely to receive much smaller payouts.
“The response to the Equifax settlement has been enormous, and there has been a lot of attention on the cash reimbursement alternative to the free credit monitoring,” Peter Kaplan, the deputy director of the FTC’s Office of Public Affairs, said in a statement obtained by TIME. “The FTC website has received millions of visitors to email@example.com. The settlement fund will pay up to $31 million for these alternative reimbursement claims, and the amount will be divided among affected consumers who select this option, up to $125.”
The FTC has warned that this amount may be “nowhere near” $125.
“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 FTC also said.
The agency is now strongly encouraging the public to choose the credit monitoring option instead, which it argues is a “much better value.” The program would guarantee participants at least four years of monitoring from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
If you’ve already opted for the cash option and have changed your mind, all is not lost: The FTC says that the settlement administrator will reach out to the people who have selected a cash option, and give them the option to switch.
“Frankly, the free credit monitoring is worth a lot more – the market value would be hundreds of dollars a year,” the FCC said in a blog post. “And this monitoring service is probably stronger and more helpful than any you may have already, because it monitors your credit report at all three nationwide credit reporting agencies, and it comes with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and individualized identity restoration services.”
To learn if you’ve been affected by the breach, visit this link to see whether you are eligible for one of the settlement options. Affected people can still file a request for the cash payout or free credit monitoring on the Equifax Settlement Website.