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Steps to take to protect yourself following massive Equifax data breach

This Saturday, July 21, 2012, photo shows signage at the corporate headquarters of Equifax Inc. in Atlanta. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pressing credit monitoring companies TransUnion and Experian to explain what cybersecurity they have in place to protect sensitive consumer information following a breach at Equifax, discovered by the company in July 2017, that exposed the data of 143 million Americans. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

MACON, Ga. -- Following a massive data breach at Equifax, one of the country's major credit reporting agencies, many American consumers are expressing worry about the safety of their personal information.

The company disclosed earlier this month that "criminals" had stolen data--including Social Security numbers, birthdays and addresses--from about 143 million Americans. Many of those victims may not even know that their data was ever held by Equifax.

Jason Blankenship with the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia said that in order to protect your personal information from identity thieves, one option is to freeze your credit if you suspect it has been compromised. This way, it cannot be used to open any new accounts or take out loans in your name, which can affect your credit.

He said that right now, because of the breach, Equifax is offering credit freezing services free of charge. Other agencies will charge certain fees for that service.

Additionally, Blankenship suggests that if you believe your information may have been compromised, you should monitor your credit statements to ensure that there is no questionable activity on your account. He also said you should check your credit score, which can be done for free twice per year in the state of Georgia.

Blankenship said that people potentially impacted by this breach should be aware that they should file their taxes early this year. This is because he said it is a possibility that those in possession of your information can use it to file your taxes and take your tax return before you can file.

He said that with a breach of this size, the chances are high that you are impacted, so it is important to be proactive and stay vigilant about your accounts.

To check if you may have been affected by the Equifax breach, click here.

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