By Melissa Garcia

DENVER (CBS4)– Cyber security authorities were warning Coloradans to carefully monitor their financial information after the massive cyber security breach of a national credit reporting agency.

Equifax announced the breach Thursday, impacting 143 million U.S. consumers,  44 percent of the country’s population.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s scary,” said one Denver resident.

According to company officials, thieves broke in to an Equifax website application to gain access to files.

(credit: CBS)

The files contain sensitive data including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. Some also have driver’s license and credit card numbers.

“We know it has been stolen. We don’t know by whom, and we don’t know for what purpose,” said Dr. Steve Beatty, Professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Computer Science.

(credit: CBS)

To protect themselves from the harm the could come from the breach, Beatty suggests that consumers carefully monitor their savings, checking and credit card accounts, including those seldom used.

“Maybe even more closely than you have in the past,” Beatty added. “Instead of waiting a month, maybe check them every week.”

CBS4’s Melissa Garcia interviews Dr. Steve Beatty, Professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Department of Computer Science (credit: CBS)

He also recommends that consumers check the accuracy of their credit reports.

“This might be a very good time to get that credit report. Make sure all the data on the credit report are things that you recognize so that you don’t have your credit score trashed without your knowledge,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

Equifax discovered the hack on July 29. Three days later, before the breach became public, three top Equifax executives sold shares close to $2 million. A company spokesperson did not respond Thursday to CBS4’s request for comment.

The company plans to mail out notices to some affected consumers.

Consumers can also go to: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to help them determine if their information was stolen and to sign up for free credit monitoring to be provided by Equifax.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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