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The FTC said Wednesday that consumers rushing to get a $125 check from Equifax as restitution for its 2017 cybersecurity breach should consider the credit monitoring option because the company could run out of money before satisfying all the claims.
"The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming," the FTC said. "Because the amount of money set aside for the cash payment option is capped at $31 million, consumers who select that option may not receive the $125 they had expected."
The notice continues, "For those who have not submitted a claim, the FTC is recommending that affected consumers consider choosing the free credit monitoring service, which is worth hundreds of dollars and comes with identity theft insurance and restoration services. For consumers who have already chosen the cash option, the settlement administrator will e-mail those consumers and provide them with the opportunity to either (1) submit additional information, or (2) switch to the free credit monitoring service. Consumers can also contact the settlement administrator directly."
Equifax could not immediately be reached for comment.
As CNBC previously reported, it's unlikely many consumers will qualify for the larger sums of money offered in the Equifax settlement. But if you haven't already filed as part of the settlement agreement, in which the credit ratings company set aside more than $400 million to settle with consumers over the incident, here's how you do it.
The breach was announced in September 2017 affected 147 million consumers, mostly in the U.S., but also in Europe and Canada. The data from the breach, which included personal data like Social Security numbers and driver's licenses, has never been found for sale on the internet.
The information services company Experian will be offering the four-year credit monitoring service, as it has for its own free monitoring service between 2017 and 2019. The company has set up a website describing the settlement: www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com. The FTC has also published details of the settlement on its website.
A spokesperson for the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James said, "Free credit monitoring for 10 years is an extremely valuable tool for consumers across the country affected by the breach."
"Every American will have to make the decision that works best for their situation," the spokesperson said.