In 2019, there were 14.4 million cases of identity theft. Do you feel like you were a victim or did your personal information recently get leaked?
If so, this a scary time, and you may not know what to do to protect yourself and your financial information. Keep reading to learn what steps to take to protect yourself and your family after any data breach.
What Is a Data Breach?
A data breach occurs after someone with unauthorized access gets customer user information. Breaches happen through poor database security, hacking, stealing of equipment, or even an accidental release of private data.
How many people can this affect? Two of the biggest breaches in this century affect about 3.5 billion people. These breaches happen to large companies, like Yahoo and Marriott, and small businesses alike.
So, how can you protect yourself?
If you received a notice that you were part of a breach, retain all the documents and follow suggestions. Pay attention and retain any unwanted mail or unfamiliar mail. This includes things like bills from unknown lenders or notices from IRS about your taxes.
Change Your Passwords
It’s always a good idea to change your passwords regularly, but after a breach, it’s vital you change them to a strong and secure password immediately. Your password should be at least eight characters and include numbers, symbols, and letters.
Do not use the same password for all your online accounts. You should have multiple passwords. If you have problems remembering these passwords, consider a password manager that stores all your passwords—then you need to only remember one.
Initiate a Fraud Alert
You may want to consider setting up a fraud alert that tells lenders your information was breached. Ask the three main credit bureaus Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) to add this fraud alert to your credit report.
This tells potential lenders that you may be a fraud victim and they will contact you if someone tries to get a loan in your name. This stays on your credit report for 90 days, but you can extend it after it expires.
Watch Your Accounts and Credit Reports
After a data breach, you need to stay vigilant and check your account activity regularly. This includes all your accounts as well as the account from the breached company.
Read all your credit card statements and watch for suspicious activity. Check your credit report and look for any unknown accounts. You can order a free annual credit report from the credit reporting bureaus.
You may even want to contact all your credit card companies and banks and tell them. They will issue you new cards to help protect you.
If you see accounts that don’t belong to you, you will have to dispute them. Need help doing this check out Financialjusticenow.com. You may have a stolen identity, which may take time to resolve.
Freeze or Lock Your Credit File
You can also freeze your credit reports for free with a security freeze. A security freeze prevents potential lenders from getting your credit report.
You have to unfreeze the credit report in order to access it. This means if you want to open a new account, you should wait on the security freeze.
Beware of Scams
After a data breach, thieves may use this opportunity to send out emails, post on social media, or make phone calls to “help” those affected. This is another way to gain personal information.
Never click on links from a business that appears out of nowhere after a scam. You should also never give personal information on the phone if someone contacts you.
The email may look credible, but you should call a company or check them out first to ensure the offer is legitimate.
Staying Safe in the Future
The main thing you can do is limit the amount of personal information you share. Make sure you ask questions like why someone needs your personal information like address, Social Security number, address, or phone number.
You shouldn’t be worried to ask questions like how it will be shared or how it will be kept safe. Keep in mind—you can’t get hacked if the company doesn’t have your information.
Here are some other tips to help you stay safe:
- Change your passwords regularly
- Never click or download attachments in an email
- Review your accounts and remove any extra, unneeded personal information
- Watch out for scams and strange phone calls—don’t believe anything that is too good to be true
- Use antivirus or anti-malware software on your devices and scan regularly
- Do not share logins with friends and family because you never know when one of their devices will get infected
- Don’t give out personal information to someone you don’t know
It’s important to stay proactive to prevent your information from leaking. You can also sign up for a credit monitoring system that will help monitor your exposure and alert you of any problems.
Signing up for credit and monitor service is a great way to protect yourself without having to do any of the work. The cost is pretty inexpensive for all the protection you get. Some plans include things like identity theft monitoring, neighborhood watch information, help after identity theft, and lost wallet recovery services.
Protecting Your Personal Information
Data breaches can happen when you least expect it. When your personal information leaks, you feel vulnerable. Follow these steps as quickly as you can to protect your information and take steps to prevent any future mishaps.
Looking for more legal advice? Keep checking out our to learn how to protect yourself.