These days, you can take care of pretty well everything on the internet. This is convenient but it also means a lot of your private information is stored online. While companies do their best to protect their records, occasionally they are hacked and suffer a data breach. Here’s everything you need to know about these data breaches and how you can protect yourself going forward.
What is a data breach and why is it a concern?
A data breach is when someone illegally accesses private records. Hackers target large organizations so they can access the personal records of thousands of people at the same time. Banks, credit card companies, retailers, and insurance companies are popular targets because they have a lot of your personal and valuable information.
If a criminal steals your information in a data breach, they can create all kinds of problems. If they access your credit card information, they can make fraudulent purchases on your account. If they find your personal information like your name and Social Security Number, they can steal your identity to open fake credit cards and loans under your name. They also might just access information that you don’t want anyone else to know about, like your medical history. In all scenarios, a data breach is a huge headache.
What to do if this happens to you
If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, you need to move fast to limit the damage. Start by ordering a copy of your credit report to see if there is any unauthorized activity, like a new loan that you didn’t take out. You should cancel any credit cards that were compromised from the breach and change the passwords to your online accounts so the thieves won’t have any further access.
It also helps to set up a credit monitoring service like the ones featured at Credit Sesame. These services keep track of your credit records and personally notify you if they see anything suspicious, like an application for a new credit card. If you’re really worried, you can put a freeze on your credit report. This blocks access to your credit report so no one, including you, can apply for new loans and credit cards so long as the freeze is in place.
How to prevent a data breach
As a consumer, it’s hard to absolutely protect yourself from a data breach because it’s up to the companies that have your private information to protect it. Still, there are some ways to prevent getting hurt by a data breach. One simple strategy is to use different passwords for all your online accounts. That way if one password is stolen, thieves aren’t able to access everything.
Hiring a credit monitoring service is also a good move. That way if someone accesses your private information without you knowing, you’ll be alerted as soon as they try to steal your identity. Finally, avoid giving out your private information whenever you can. For example, doctors often ask for your Social Security number even though it’s not a requirement. If you request not to share it, you can protect yourself from a data breach at your doctor’s office.