By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
Last week, our office announced that, along with 49 other states and jurisdictions across the county, we have reached a settlement with Equifax over the largest data breach in the history of the United States. Our investigation found that Equifax’s failure to maintain a reasonable security system enabled hackers to penetrate its systems, exposing the data of 56 percent of American adults – including 1.1 million Kansans.
Our consumer protection division takes seriously our responsibility to ensure all companies that hold Kansans' personal information fulfill their legal duties to protect it. Securing last week’s settlement was especially important because of the sheer number of people who were affected. All Kansans should inquire with the settlement administrator about whether their information was put at risk and whether they are eligible for consumer restitution as a result. Here’s how you can do that:
- Visit the settlement administrator’s website, which can now be accessed at https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/. There you can find answers to frequently asked questions, information about available restitution, and file a claim if you believe you were affected by the data breach.
- Call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982 and request a paper claims form.
Data breaches are becoming more common every day. Unfortunately, as in this case when a company’s security systems are breached there is not much a consumer can do to prevent it. But there are steps you can take that may help protect you in the event your information has been stolen. Here are some tips:
- Place a “security freeze” on your credit report. Under federal and state law, it is now free for Kansas consumers to “freeze” or “thaw” their credit reports. A security freeze prohibits the credit bureaus, with certain exceptions, from releasing your credit report or any information on it without your express authorization. That makes it hard for identity thieves to open new accounts using your Social Security Number, since the credit check would come back showing that the report has been frozen. That also means, however, it will be difficult for you to open new accounts while your report is frozen. If you wish to apply for a new loan, open a new credit card or bank account while the freeze is in place, you will need to contact the credit bureaus to temporarily lift the freeze. This will require giving them the password or PIN number you received when you put the freeze in place. Freezes will remain in place indefinitely, until you choose to thaw your report.
- Subscribe to year-long fraud alerts. Fraud alerts are also free, and do not lock down your credit report in the same way as a security freeze. A fraud alert will allow creditors to access your report, but requires them to take additional steps to verify your identity before opening a new account. Previously, these alerts only lasted for 90 days. Under the new law, fraud alerts will last for a year – or seven years if you have been the victim of identity theft and provide a copy of an identity theft complaint.
If you’ve become the victim of identity theft, our office is available to help. Visit our consumer website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org to file a complaint or to learn more about how to keep your personal information safe.