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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," said Equifax chairman and CEO Richard F. Smith.
Related: Instagram hackers are selling user emails and phone numbers.
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.
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.