NV credit theft expert: Equifax breach is 'worst type there coul - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

NV credit theft expert: Equifax breach is 'worst type there could be'

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A cyber security breach affects 143 million Americans. A cyber security breach affects 143 million Americans.
(CNNMONEY / FOX5) -

Equifax says a giant cybersecurity breach compromised the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans — almost half the country.

Cyber criminals have accessed sensitive information -- including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver's licenses.

Additionally, Equifax said that credit card numbers for about 209,000 U.S. customers were exposed, as was "personal identifying information" on roughly 182,000 U.S. customers involved in credit report disputes. Residents in the U.K. and Canada were also impacted.

The breach occurred between mid-May and July, Equifax said. The company said it discovered the hack on July 29.

"This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do," Equifax chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith said.

Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies that track and rates the financial history of U.S. consumers. The companies are supplied with data about loans, loan payments and credit cards, as well as information on everything from child support payments, credit limits,missed rent and utilities payments, addresses and employer history, which all factor into credit scores.

"This is the worst type of breach in my opinion that there could be," Harry Jacobs with Credit Restoration of Nevada said. "Think about your credit report as your adult report card: they have your name, your address your full social security number things that aren't necessarily on the back of a credit card when that gets hacked at a department store, so this is far worse."

Unlike other data breaches, not all of the people affected by the Equifax breach may be aware that they're customers of the company. Equifax gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report on the credit activity of individuals to credit reporting agencies, as well as by purchasing public records.

Consumers can check to see if they've potentially been impacted by submitting their last name and the last six digits of their social security number. Those affected will be given a date to enroll in free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services.

Equifax is also mailing notices to people whose credit cards or dispute documents were affected.

"This is reason Number 10,000 to check your online bank statements and credit card statements on a regular basis, ideally weekly," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com. "Bad guys can be very patient, so it's important to keep an eye out long after this story fades from the headlines."

CNN Money contributed to this report.

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