Consumers hit by data breach at Nationwide Insurance

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Overseas computer hackers have hit again. This time, the target was Nationwide Insurance. The company believes thousands of people in our state had their personal information stolen, and many not even be Nationwide customers.

Nationwide says someone hit part of their computer network the first week of October. On its website, the company calls it the work of a sophisticated criminal likely located outside the United States. The thief -- or thieves -- now have a wealth of personal information on as many as a million people who own cars or homes. An estimated 20,000 are here in the state of Washington.

Included in the compromised information are names, social security numbers, driver's license numbers, birth dates, occupations and more. The state insurance commissioner's office says it's believed none of the stolen information involved complete personal profiles, but rather bits and pieces of information on different consumers.

According to Nationwide's website, the theory that people may have sought a competitive insurance quote through a company or third party agent, and that agent may have obtained quotes from several companies, including Nationwide, on the consumer's behalf. The consumers may not have even known Nationwide was given their personal information.

Nationwide says letters have been sent to all consumers whose information was compromised and the FBI has joined the investigation.

Consumers who receive the letter are urged to check their credit report immediately, using the free website annualcreditreport.com.

This is a good reminder that all off us need to check our credit reports on a regular basis because criminals are always looking for ways to access and use our personal information.

Remember, you're entitled to a free report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. But instead of getting all the reports at once, spread it out. Get a report from one agency right now, then a second agency in four months, then the third four months later so you'll have a snapshot of your credit throughout the year.

But again, to make sure it's totally free. Only go to annualcreditreport.com.