Major corporations are losing massive amounts of consumer information due to data breaches. Most recently, Yahoo reported a breach of more than 500 million accounts. It is the biggest data breach in history (as of September 2016).
The impact of having your information exposed in a data breach depends on the type of information stolen. Basic information alone – email addresses, usernames, and passwords – typically enough to commit fraud or identity theft. But if hackers get access to personal financial information, like credit card details or social security number, they can use it to commit identity theft and credit card fraud. If a company you do business with suffers a data breach, take a few steps to protect your information.
Change your password. Updating passwords can be a nuisance, especially since password requirements become stricter. A new, stronger password can keep hackers from getting into your email and other accounts. If you’ve used the same password on other websites – which is risky – change those passwords too to be on the safe side.
Check your bank and credit card statements. You may typically glance over your statements just to make sure everything looks correct, but after a data breach, you should give your statements a more thorough review. Look for any fraudulent transactions, in any amount and report suspicious activity to your bank or credit card issuer right away. If your account information has been compromised, your bank can send you a new debit or credit card.
Review your credit report. If a data breach exposes your social security number and other personal information, thieves can use that information to open up new accounts in your name. Checking your credit report regularly is important because identity theft can easily go undetected for months, years even. Many victims don’t realize their identity has been stolen until they have a credit application unexpectedly denied. Catching identity theft sooner will save you the trouble of having to deal with it when you’re trying to get a major credit application approve. Check your credit report for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
Take the free credit monitoring. Many breached companies offer free credit monitoring to affected customers. Signing up can alert you to any suspicious activity on your credit report. But, the free credit monitoring typically applies to only one of the three major credit bureaus. This means you’ll have to actively monitor your credit with the other two credit bureaus to catch any instances of fraud that may appear on those credit reports.
You are not responsible for fraudulent charges or accounts opened in your name. However, you do have to spend time clearing up the damages. Contact the credit bureaus to dispute fraudulent accounts and work with your bank or credit card issuer to remove unauthorized charges from your account.