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Woman says her identity was stolen 15 times after Equifax data breach

SEATTLE (WCMH) – Stories are starting to pour in about those impacted by last month’s massive Equifax data breach, which compromised the private information of more than 140 million people.

Katie Van Fleet of Seattle says she’s spent months trying to regain her stolen identity, and says it has been stolen more than a dozen times.

“I kept receiving letters from Kohl’s, from Macy’s, from Home Depot, from Old Navy saying ‘thank you for your application,’” she said to CNN affiliate KCPQ.

But she says she’s never applied for credit from any of those places. Instead, Van Fleet and her attorney Catherine Fleming say they believe her personal data was stolen during the massive Equifax security breach.

“It’s a product that they want to sell and that they need to profit off of,” said Fleming. “That’s what they care about.”

Fleming has filed a class-action lawsuit against Equifax, saying they were negligent in losing private information on more than 140 million Americans.

“Countless people, I mean, I’ve really, truly lost count, and the stories that like Katie’s, the stories I hear are heart-wrenching,” Fleming said.

Cybersecurity expert Brian Seely says everyone should do several things to protect themselves from identity theft.

“Everyone’s social has pretty much been stolen in the last 10 years,” said Seely.

First, shop with a credit card. It’s easier to get stolen money back from a credit card than from a debit card.

Also, be sure to review your credit report regularly from all credit reporting agencies.

And, finally, he said you should freeze your credit. Doing so, he says, makes it impossible for strangers to open lines of credit in your name.

“I didn’t have a choice to use Equifax,” Van Fleet said.

Van Fleet said she has spent countless hours trying to restore her good name, and she’s hoping to get a handle on the mess before she takes a crack at buying a house in Seattle.

“I didn’t sign up to use Equifax, so I feel all of that stuff has been taken, and now I am left here trying to sweep up the pieces and just trying to protect myself and protect my credit,” Van Fleet said.

People who want to freeze their credit should do so with all three major credit reporting agencies: EquifaxExperian and TransUnion.