Caution, vigilance recommended in wake of data breach

Attorney General: 1.1 million Iowans hit by Equifax breach

Equifax, already facing lawsuits in the wake of its disclosure last week that it exposed vital data like Social Security numbers of about 143 million Americans, is the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation as well, the federal agency told CNBC Thursday.

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

Cyber security experts said it was among the largest hacks ever recorded and was particularly troubling due to the richness of the information exposed - names, birthdays, addresses and Social Security and driver's license numbers.

The data breach made major headlines, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is investigating and people in Canada and the US are filing class action lawsuits.

Leach also recommends freezing credit with the two other major credit reporting agencies: Experian (888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872). They should be wary of unsolicited calls or email that say they are related to the breach and that ask to confirm or enter personal information.

What should you do if you've been unable to place a credit freeze online?

File your taxes early - as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. From a secure computer and an encrypted network connection, visit Equifax's website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the tab "Potential Impact".

If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files.

Hackers also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 consumers.

"The steps can include something as simple as monitoring your bank statements, your credit card statements, your overall financial statements", Greenwood said. 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.

Equifax created a website so you can check to see if your personal information may have been affected.

Tip #2: Run your credit report.

Peterson said his office is committed to ensuring that Equifax complies with all applicable state laws. You can request a free credit report. If you want to open new credit, you will have to lift, or thaw, the credit freeze by contacting the credit reporting agencies. "You're entitled to a free one".

Almost half of all Americans may be impacted by the Equifax breach.

Enroll in free credit monitoring services.

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