Bad news: Your $125 Equifax data breach payout is pretty damn unlikely

You'll get less than 25 cents if every person claims their share.

Clifford Colby Managing Editor
Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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You could get less cash back in the settlement than you think.

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If you've been affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach, you have a choice to make -- get a $125 payout or 10 years of free credit monitoring. The problem is, your $125 compensation for the grief you went through to recover from the hack may not add up to $125. The FTC has cautioned that if everyone eligible requests the money over the monitoring, your benefit will be "nowhere near the $125." 

Here's the problem. Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to compensate the 147 million victims of the data breach, but the pool of money set aside for the $125 payout is only $31 million, according to the  FTC . That works out to about 20 cents per person.

You do have another option, though. You could also choose 10 years of free credit monitoring. And that is the choice the FTC is pushing. 

"Frankly, the free credit monitoring is worth a lot more -- the market value would be hundreds of dollars a year," the FTC said on its website. "And this monitoring service is probably stronger and more helpful than any you may have already."

Watch this: Equifax breach: Find out if you can claim part of the $700 million

As part of the settlement reached between the FTC and the free credit report company, you can also file claims to be reimbursed for time spent recovering from fraud and identity theft, for money spent to protect yourself from the breach and for the cost of Equifax credit monitoring subscriptions. You can claim up to $20,000 in compensation, providing documents and receipts to support your claim.

We have a guide for how to choose between the options, if you are thinking through which is the better choice for you. And if you've already filed your claim, the FTC said you can change your mind. Watch for an email from the settlement administrator with instructions. Scammers are already setting up websites to trick victims, but they're easy to avoid as long as you know what you're looking for.