MINNEAPOLIS - Long before the computer, the fax machine, or even the Model T, there was Equifax, calculating credit scores.

Sort of. It was different back then.

Equifax was founded in Atlanta in 1899, and over the years, has grown into one of the three largest credit-reporting agencies in the United States.

Which means they have access to an extraordinary amount of personal and financial data. All hacked. We're talking names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver's license numbers.

Equifax admitted hackers potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million people, which is 44% of Americans. So, what happens if hackers get a hold of your social security number?

"It's the gateway to your personal history, your medical history, your financial history, to your credit. It's really the gateway to your life and if somebody has your Social Security Number they can assume your identity and wreak absolute havoc with just about every aspect of your life," said Bruce Rivers, a lawyer with Rivers Law Firm, P.A. in Minneapolis.

Equifax is hardly the first company to be hit hard by hackers: Target, Home Depot, and Yahoo! all within the past four years. What can we do to keep clean?

"I think they should absolutely monitor their credit on a very regular basis, and monitor your bank accounts. Look online at least once or twice a week. That way you can be - rest assured - that you know what's going on with your accounts. But, that's about all you can really do. It's really up to the institution to have better security," said Rivers.

How did this happen to Equifax, a company that stood strong through the Great Depression and two World Wars? Um, well, they're not quite sure about that. Or who's behind the breach, just that it happened from mid-May through July. So, what if you've been affected?

"First thing they should do is they should report it to the police and then file an affidavit for fraud with their bank or whatever their financial institution is," said Rivers. "So, if it's done early enough you can figure out who it is that was using your card or where it was used or your identity, and it can be anywhere in the country. And, the sooner law enforcement has that information, the quicker they can act."