People affected by a data breach in which private information of more than 147 million people was stolen from consumer reporting agency Equifax may not receive nearly as much money as they expected as part of a settlement.
The Federal Trade Commission is warning people whose data was stolen and elected to file a claim last month for cash reimbursement to consider another option as the pool of money for the claims isn’t large enough to fill all the claims of $125.
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“The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming, and we’re delighted that millions of people have visited ftc.gov/Equifax and gone on to the settlement website’s claims form,” the FTC wrote on its website.
“But there’s a downside to this unexpected number of claims. First, though, the good: all 147 million people can ask for and get free credit monitoring. There’s also the option for people who certify that they already have credit monitoring to claim up to $125 instead. But 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.”
With that in mind, the FTC is now suggesting to those affected to select the free credit monitoring instead as the value will be worth significantly more than what the checks will be when issued next year. A settlement administrator will be reaching out to those who filed claims via email in the coming weeks to allow them to change their mind or continue pursuing the cash settlement.
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The FTC went on to remind people there is a separate pool of money set aside for victims to file claims for involving money spent to deal with the breach.
“Please also note that there is still money available under the settlement to reimburse people for what they paid out of their pocket to recover from the breach,” the FTC wrote. “Say you had to pay for your own credit freezes after the breach, or you hired someone to help you deal with identity theft. The settlement has a larger pool of money for just those people. If you’re one of them, use your documents to submit your claim.”
That pool of money includes claims for time spent handling the breach. It allows you to claim up to 10 hours of spent time at $25 an hour. If you spent more than 10 hours dealing with the breach, you’ll have to submit documentation proving how much time you spent dealing with the breach.
If you suffered losses as part of the breach, you may be able to claim up to $20,000 in damages but will have to provide documentation of what you’re claiming
The deadline for filing a claim on having your data stolen is Jan. 22, 2020 which means the earliest the benefits will be sent out to those affected is Jan. 23, 2020. However, if there are issues with your credit following that date, you will be able to file for time spent and damages until Jan. 22, 2024