RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Attorney General Josh Stein announced on Tuesday that North Carolina will join a nationwide effort to investigate how and why credit reporter Equifax allowed hackers to expose the sensitive information of more than 143 million people.
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The hack, first reported by Equifax earlier this week, affects more than 5 million North Carolinians, according to the Attorney General's office.
Click here to find out if the Equifax breach affects you
"For them to have allowed these thieves to break through their systems and steal people's money is inexcusable," Stein asserted to ABC11. "You've worked hard to get good credit so you can buy a home - so you're somebody they want to steal from. With your name, your social security number, your address, they can go and get credit for a $2,000 television."
On its website, Equifax asserted that the company "acted immediately" to stop the hack, and "promptly engaged a leading, independent cybersecurity firm which has been conducting a comprehensive forensic review to determine the scope of the intrusion, including the specific data impacted." Still, the company conceded unauthorized access occurred from May through July 2017. Among the sensitive information vulnerable: names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver's license numbers, credit card numbers, and some "dispute documents," which also include some personal information.
"This is different from other hacks because of the quality of information about you that the thieves stole," Stein lamented. "They have your credit rating so they know which person is the best person to exploit where to get credit from."
Click here to sign up for identity theft protection
While Equifax is offering free identity protection for one year, the AG encourages all North Carolinians to place a freeze on their credit reports at all major companies to ensure no one can access those files unless there's special permission to do so.
Click here to freeze your credit reports
"A credit freeze is like a padlock, so if a thief goes to try to open credit to buy a TV in your name, the store will check your credit report and see that it's got a lock on it."
Consumers are entitled to free credit reports from each company from each of the three major reporting companies - Equifax, Experien, and TransUnion - every year by requesting your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, or mailing an Annual Credit Report Request Form (available at www.annualcreditreport.com) to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281.
Equifax has set up a call-line for customers at (866) 447-7559, available from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time, seven days a week.
North Carolina joins nationwide Equifax investigation