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Credit-rating agency Equifax has announced its computer systems were hacked from mid-May to late July and that personal data on as many as 143 million American consumers was compromised, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. CEO Richard F. Smith said in a press release that the data breach “strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do.” The company’s brand and reputation are likely to be damaged short term, as the hack has called into question Equifax’s core competency — to gather and check consumers’ confidential financial information. The hack has exposed consumers to risks, including identity theft and fraud. Experts predict that Equifax will likely be able to bounce back in time if the hack doesn’t prove worse than initially reported, and if consumers don’t sour on the fraud-protection services the company offers them.

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Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy