Bryan Cohen Apr. 24, 2014, 3:08pm

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Tuesday that her office and attorneys general throughout the U.S. are looking into a potential data breach involving a major credit reporting company.

Coakley learned that criminals were able to gain access to a commercial database that contained Social Security numbers and other personal information for more than 200 million U.S. citizens. The attorneys general involved in the inquiry are looking into U.S. Info Search, a data broker, and Experian, a credit reporting company.

"Allegations that companies have allowed criminals to purchase personal information of consumers are extremely troubling," Coakley said. "We are especially concerned about allegations that the companies may have known of this incident for over a year, while not reporting it so consumer could protect themselves. We will actively investigate this matter and in the meantime, we remind consumers to take proactive steps to protect their personal information."

On March 3, Hieu Ngo, a Vietnamese national, pleaded guilty to federal charges involving his operation of a website offering clients access to sensitive personal information for more than 200 million U.S. citizens. Ngo may have resold access to his account to more than 1,300 people. More than 3.1 million queries were made to the database using Ngo's account over an 18-month period.

Coakley's office has been in contact with U.S. Info Search and Experian to review the circumstances of the breach to determine if the companies had proper safeguards in place to protect the personal information of consumers from unauthorized use or disclosure. Coakley is also seeking to ensure the companies take all needed steps to protect consumers going forward.

The extent of the breach is not currently known.

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