As you may have heard, Equifax—the company responsible for a poorly handled, cataclysmic data breach that exposed the personal information of nearly 150 million people—has reached a settlement that will see the company finally begin to pay out damages to those who were affected. But the Federal Trade Commission is now warning consumers looking to file claims to beware of scammers and fake websites.
“Beware of fake websites claiming to be the Equifax settlement claims website,” the agency tweeted Monday, advising consumers to apply for claims through the link provided on the FTC’s website. In addition to informing affected parties about the settlement’s terms, it also contains information related to that $125 payout you’ve likely heard about.
As part of the deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Equifax is required to set aside up to $425 million to dole out damages to people who’ve had their data exposed in the breach—information that includes their date of birth, Social Security numbers, and home addresses, among other sensitive information. That includes, among other things, up to 10 years of free credit monitoring or up to $125 for those who already have monitoring services. (Victims can also claim up to $20,000 in cash under specific circumstances.)
The bummer here, of course, is that those who’ve had their data exposed (the FTC’s linked settlement page will let you know if you did), opt for the $125, and file a claim may not even see all or even most of that painfully low payout. As mentioned, somewhere in the ballpark of 150 million people were affected in the breach. And as our sister site Lifehacker noted, if everyone or even most of the affected parties file claims, folks are looking at significantly lower payouts.
“If there are more than $31 million claims for Alternative Reimbursement Compensation, all payments for Alternative Reimbursement Compensation will be lowered and distributed on a proportional basis,” the settlement’s FAQ reads. What this means is that victims who file for the $125 alternative could see mere dollars or even humble cents.
Should you still file? Yes. Take this shitty company’s free money, even if it’s comical how little it’s actually paying out for such an astronomical fuckup. And file through the FTC’s website, for god’s sake. Don’t inadvertently expose more of your personal information than these idiots already have.