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Equifax identity theft settlement could help 4 million Virginians

Identity theft can be a nightmare if the thief uses your personal identifying information to fraudulently rack up charges in your name, potentially harming your credit and forcing you to fight against those seeking to collect those wrongful debts. In addition, the thief could try to access your bank accounts and other assets.

The harmful ramifications of these kinds of fraud can be far reaching. As you fight with the credit bureaus to correct negative impact on your credit rating, those mistaken black marks against you that make you look like a credit risk could affect your ability to get a job, loan, lease, security clearance or college admission.

The Equifax heist

In 2017, hackers successfully stole personal identifying information of more than half of the national population from the computers of Equifax, one of three large credit reporting agencies in the U.S. As a result, 50 state attorneys general, federal authorities and private consumers have made legal claims against the giant company.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article from the New York Times News Service about the July settlement, which, if the federal court in Atlanta approves it, will cost Equifax a minimum of $650 million as well as require it to monitor victims’ credit for evidence of harm from the identify theft for a decade.

The settlement money will go toward individual victim losses, including legal fees. In addition, Equifax will pay fines in exchange for ending state investigations.

The link to the official settlement website is https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/, where a consumer may find out if their data was breached and file a claim accordingly either online or on paper, subject to court approval.

Equifax also agreed to make it easier for consumers to work with it to correct inaccuracies in credit reports as well as to freeze and unfreeze credit. The bureau will dedicate customer service personnel to assisting victims of the heist.

It will also make significant improvements in its data security practices.

Impact on Virginians

On July 22, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a news release about the settlement, which could benefit the 4 million state residents whose identities were stolen from Equifax. The news release faulted Equifax for negligently having insufficient security in place that allowed the record-breaking hack to continue undetected for 76 days.

Virginia’s share of the settlement will be $4.3 million.