The Federal Trade Commission had warned consumers that opting for free credit monitoring might be a better bet than hoping for a $125 check from Equifax as part of a settlement over its 2017 data breach. Now it looks like that advice was sound: A federal judge on Thursday sliced off $77.5 million of the $380 million restitution fund Equifax had put in place to assist consumers, awarding it to attorneys who've been representing consumers in the case. That's more than one-fifth of the entire settlement fund, CNBC notes. That $125 payout was always in question, as only $31 million of the $380 million was available for cash compensation: That's enough to pay 248,000 people $125. But Fox Business reports that, as of Dec. 1, 4.5 million claims for the cash had been put in.
The check that still-eligible consumers can expect in the mail is "down to $6 or $7 [per consumer] now. Maybe even less than that," says Ted Frank, the director of litigation at the nonprofit Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute. "The FTC let themselves get snookered by the class counsel into believing how good this settlement was. That's why their press was misleading. It's unfortunate, because they're supposed to [be] looking out for consumers here and instead they signed off on a settlement where the beneficiaries are really the attorneys." If you're still interested either way, the deadline to file a claim is Jan. 22. (Read more Equifax stories.)