By Nikki Igbo
data breach in which hackers gained access to potentially 143 million
consumers’ sensitive data including social security numbers and driver’s
license numbers. Based in Atlanta, Equifax is the oldest of the three biggest
American consumer credit reporting agencies. Its breach did not take place in a
various locations. Dun
& Bradstreet leaked personal contact information on millions of
employees at U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Postal Service, CVS Health,
Wal-Mart and AT&T. Nearly 5 million users of
America’s JobLink across ten states had personal information compromised. Identity thieves also snatched personal information for up to 100,000 taxpayers through the IRS Data Retrieval
Tool which is used to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
(FAFSA). Those are just a few examples from 2017 alone.
Obviously, data breaches can be expected to be a regular occurrence in our
brave, new digitized world. But you don’t have to sit back and wait to be
victimized. Here are steps you can take to protect yourself after (and
sometimes before) a breach occurs.
a close watch over your finances. You should always keep track of what is
moving in and out of your bank and credit card accounts. Match your receipts to
your account ledgers daily and weekly; keep an eye out for oddities or
discrepancies. Whether hackers are afoot or not, banks often make mistakes. You
can even sign up for a credit or identity-monitoring service to make
inventory of what was stolen. If a breach has occurred, make sure you know
exactly what was stolen. If it was a
simple leak of names or mailing addresses then you have nothing to worry about.
A stolen email address will likely result in increased spam. Birth dates and
drivers’ license numbers can be sensitive if taken along with your name and
other contact information. Stolen payment cards and/or social security numbers
will definitely require more action and attention on your part.
Change/update your passwords. Any compromised account passwords should be
changed immediately. Make sure you always create strong passwords which contain
at least 15 characters and include all four types of characters (upper-case
letters, lower-case letters, punctuation marks/special characters, numerals). Do not
use names, birthdays or references to any personal interest that are
potentially easy to guess. Never reuse passwords for multiple accounts.
Alert any relevant financial institutions. If
your payment card information was stolen, contact the issuer and understand
that you are not liable. More often than
not, you will receive a call or notice from your card issuer if they notice
suspicious activity first. Any fraudulent charges made against your card will
be negated and you’ll be issued a new card. You’ll also want to contact credit
reporting agencies to make sure your credit score is not adversely affected.
Have you had to deal with identity theft or a breach or your personal information?