How to defend yourself against identity theft after the Equifax data breach

To lower the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft and financial fraud after the data breach at Equifax, Americans should place a security "freeze" on their credit reports and delete any suspicious emails that could dupe them into releasing personal data to cyber thieves.

That's the advice from identity-theft experts after the credit-reporting company said hackers broke into its computers and stole key personal data — including social security numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth — from an estimated 143 million Americans.

Following the breach, which was made public last week, hackers now have four of the most important pieces of identification data — dubbed the "crown jewels" — for nearly half the nation, says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who formerly worked at Equifax and credit-score company FICO.

Adam Shell | USA TODAY

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