USDA has begun offering free credit monitoring to individuals whose private identification information may have been exposed on a U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site.

The service will be available for one year to persons whose names and information were listed on the Website. USDA officials have declined to provide additional details about the site to avoid revealing information that could increase the vulnerability of the private data.

The Department said it will make additional details public once the USDA funding recipients who are potentially impacted have had an opportunity to register for free credit monitoring. USDA is notifying by registered mail 150,000 persons whose information may have been exposed.

The exact number of individuals whose private data may have been viewed is not clear. In an April 20 press release, USDA said between 105,000 and 150,000 individuals have had private information entered into a federal government database in the last 26 years.

In the same press release, the Department said the Web site contained private information relating to 47,000 individuals. A later press release said USDA had narrowed the list to 38,700 persons.

USDA officials said the information was removed from the Web site immediately after USDA learned of the potential exposure. “There is no evidence this information has been misused,” they said. “However, due to the potential this information was downloaded prior to being removed, USDA will provide the additional monitoring service.

Officials said the Department became aware of the potential exposure of such information on April 13, when USDA was notified by a recipient of USDA funding that she was able to ascertain identifying information by viewing the Web site.

“All of the private identifying information was embedded in a larger number and therefore not immediately identifiable,” they said, adding that all identification numbers associated with USDA funding were removed from the Web site the same day.

USDA funding recipients who wish to take advantage of the credit-monitoring offer will be provided with instructions on how to register. Any USDA funding recipient with questions may call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636) or visit USA.gov. The call center operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EDT), Monday-Friday.

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