BROOKINGS — Equifax, one of the three credit reporting agencies, collects credit and demographic data on over 800 million consumers and provides credit monitoring and fraud-prevention services. In September of 2017, Equifax announced that a data breach had occurred earlier in the year. Personal information of 147 million people had been exposed. Cyber-criminals stole full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers.

As a result of the data breach, a settlement of $425 million has been agreed upon between Equifax, the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and all 50 U.S. states and territories. If your information was exposed, you can file a claim online at https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/ by Jan. 22, 2020. If you are not sure if your data was breached, you can check your eligibility at the Equifax Data Breach Settlement website at: https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/en/eligibility.

Depending on how you were impacted, there are three options to choose. The first option is free credit monitoring. If you already have credit monitoring and will have it for at least the next six months, you can opt for a cash payment, however, if you spent time recovering from the breach or if you lost or spent money because of the breach, you can request payment. If you choose options two or three, you will need to provide supporting documents. The Breach Settlement website lists necessary documents for this process.

Consumers need to be diligent about protecting their personal information. Check your credit report at least annually to make sure information about your credit history is accurate and take steps to correct errors. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 gives consumers the right to annually check their credit report for free. Go to the Annual Credit Report website at: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action to download your report from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion).

For more information contact Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head, SDSU Extension Family Resource Management Field Specialist, at lorna.woundedhead@sdstate.edu or 605-782-3290.

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