We are living in a world full of data breaches. Every month hackers attack a major company and through brute force of the assailants or negligence of the data protectors, they compromise personal data. For example, Target, Wells Fargo and Equifax all come to mind. Every company is responsible for protecting your personal data, but if someone steals your private information, you need to act quickly.
If you have no idea how to handle such a scenario, here are some things you can do when someone compromises your data, as well as ways to prevent a data breach:
- Use a credit monitoring and/or identity theft protection agency. There are many options available for credit monitoring. LifeLock is perhaps the most well-known. These companies will monitor your personal information and alert you if someone is using your identity.
- Check your credit and debit card statements. Checking recent activity on any credit or debit card is of utmost importance after an attack. The sooner you catch any fraudulent activity, the sooner you can alert the bank to stop the purchase.
- Run your own credit report to check for fraudulent activity. The U.S. government allows you to check your credit report once every 12 months. Since there are three credit reporting agencies, you can check your credit report once every four months. There is one site authorized for you to check your credit report from all three agencies for free at http://www.annualcreditreport.com/. If you recognize any fraudulent activity, you should reach out to the FTC at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.
- Put a freeze on your credit. Contact each of the credit reporting agencies to request a freeze on to your account. This will disable access to your credit report and related information from potential lenders, making it difficult for someone to open an account in your name. You will need to supply a PIN to confirm your identity when you decide to unfreeze your account. The cost for a credit freeze is free or less than $10 for most states. The numbers to freeze your credit at each of the agencies are as follows:
- Use fraud alerts. Credit reporting agencies also allow you to put fraud alerts on your account. In this case, the credit reporting agency requires a credit card company to contact you and confirm your identity before opening an account. Implementing fraud alerts is free. All three agencies honor them, regardless of which one you choose to set them up with. The alert is active for 90 days at which time you would have to renew. Call one of these agencies to set up fraud alerts:
- Change passwords and use a password manager. Choose strong and unique passwords when online. A password manager like LastPass makes storing and organizing these complicated passwords easy for you.
- Keep an eye out for mail from the IRS or medical providers. If someone is using your identity for tax purposes, like a new job, you will likely receive information from the IRS in the mail. The same goes for medical bills. Make sure to follow up on any suspicious bills or notification relating to services or jobs. As a bonus, take yourself off any pre-qualified credit and insurance offers through the FTC website.
Some Final Words of Wisdom
This list has focused on the specific actions to take in response to an attack, but these steps should serve as your daily or weekly habits. We live in a world surrounded by technology and your personal data, including your social security number, credit history, email and banking details are sailing through the internet. Be vigilant and keep an eye on your online identity. Be aware of what to do in the wake of an attack, but more importantly, pre-empt the attack by taking the precautions necessary to protect yourself and your family from any future data disasters.