Maybe they think you'll forget. Or you'll be worn down, or you simply won't have the time to fill out the paperwork, or you'll miss the spammy-looking emails.
Whatever the reason, Equifax is banking on the short memories and harried lives of consumers wounded by its incompetence to avoid having to truly atone for its negligence.
For those who don't recall, the credit reporting giant was at the center of a 2017 data breach that the Federal Trade Commission said put the personal data of 147 million Americans at risk. That's 147 million sets of birthdates, Social Security numbers, account numbers and passwords opened to digital scammers everywhere.
Let us also remember that Equifax learned of the breach in the summer of that year, but waited a full six weeks before bothering to tell anyone about it, with several company executives quietly unloading shares in the firm before the news broke and the stock price plummeted.
So it should come as no surprise that the much-crowed-about $700 million settlement agreed to with the FTC is not all it seems to be. And once again, the victims of the original data breach are the ones affected. We are left to wonder, however, how the federal government became an accomplice in the second fleecing.
The deal reached with the FTC, estimated at $700 million, is supposedly the largest settlement ever in a data breach case. Affected consumers were to be given the choice of 10 years of free credit monitoring or a $125 settlement payout. Not a bad deal, right?
If only it were true.
First, the money began to disappear. Of the $700 million, a scant $31 million was set aside for the $125 cash payouts -- enough to take care of just 248,000 of the 147 million people affected. When millions of people flooded the settlement website in search of a cash payment, the FTC, which spent weeks touting the deal, changed its tune, telling victims they will be "disappointed" if they're looking for money.
"Each person who takes the money option is going to get a very small amount," the agency wrote on its website. "Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn't been such an enormous number of claims filed."
It gets worse.
Last week Equifax sent an email to victims looking for a cash settlement telling them they had until Oct. 15 to verify that they had credit monitoring in place, or their claims would be denied. The email was sent over the weekend, and looked so amateurish and spammy it would have made a fictional Nigerian prince blush. It was, however, the real thing and another attempt by the company to shirk its responsibility to those harmed by its negligence.
Pulitzer Prize winning Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik put it best earlier this week:
"This is, of course, an ancient dodge well understood by insurance companies and other consumer-facing businesses," Hiltzik wrote. "With every hoop claimants are forced to jump through, a certain percentage will give up. That’s why the first, reflexive response by a health plan to a big claim is to deny it, forcing the claimant to file an appeal. Then that’s denied, requiring yet another appeal, and after a few months of this ... a sizable liability can be whittled away to nothing."
It's an approach the FTC signed off on, much to the dismay of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
"It appears the agency itself may have misled the American public about the terms of the Equifax settlement and their ability to obtain the full reimbursement to which they are entitled," the presidential candidate said earlier this summer.
Misled may be too strong a word. Negligent may be more accurate. In either case, the FTC has let down millions of Americans who expected their government to help.
And of course, who would trust Equifax with free credit monitoring?