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Hackers recently accessed the personal information of 143 million Americans at Equifax, one of the nation's largest credit reporting agencies. Cybercriminals stole consumers' Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers.

So almost half of American's personal data is now in the hands of criminals, "What we've seen here is the most outrageous, the most egregious example of a company not doing what it needs to do when it comes to protecting consumer information", said Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General. They also stole credit card numbers and credit card dispute documents with personal identifying information. You also need to watch out for calls from scammers who claim they work for your bank or credit union, asking you to supply account information.

Equifax has set up a Website where you can check to see if any of your information was stolen. Be sure to periodically review the credit report, and always review it again before making an application for credit on a big purchase.Rutledge reminds Arkansans that the Attorney General's office has routinely referred individuals to one of three national credit bureaus, including Equifax, when they have fallen victim to identity theft.

"Social security number is for life". Schneiderman as well as most experts advise you to freeze your credit.

The FTC said people might call asking to verify consumers' account information due to the Equifax hack. A fraud alert helps protect against the possibility of someone opening new credit accounts in your name.

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The thing is, the freeze stops creditors and lenders from legitimately inquiring about your credit, something they need to do to prove you are who you say you are.

There are literally hundreds of smaller consumer-reporting companies operating in the US and the smaller ones are collecting information you might not expect. Since the information in your credit file will not be released to anyone, it makes it almost impossible for an identity thief to open a new credit account in your name.

Identity theft should become a major concern if you or someone you know has used Equifax services.

If you are trying to apply for an apartment or loan, Hutchinson said you can still do so with the freeze.

The first thing you should consider in the wake of the nation's most recent data breach is freezing your credit. Meantime, since 2006, Lisa Madigan's office has a unit devoted to helping victims of identity theft and helping consumers prevent it.


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