We feel perhaps most vulnerable in life when we are the victims of a crime. After a home burglary, the crooks may be long gone, but that eerie feeling remains. The image of a ransacked home almost certainly enters the mind each time you turn the doorknob. Shaking the fears of a data breach can be much more frightening. With a home burglary, there is a finite amount of loss. Burglars can’t steal what you don’t have. But virtual thieves can do serious damage when they have access to your identity – not just today but long into the future.
As much as we practice cybersecurity, data breaches happen. In 2014, the Ponemon Institute conducted a data breach research study asking people if their personal data was lost or stolen, what item or items would cause them the most stress or perceived risk of financial loss. Here is how they responded:
We’ve seen recent data breaches that have exposed the information of hundreds of thousands of people, such as the recent Equifax-Kroger data breach. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Alert the Credit Bureaus
You can save yourself a lot of headaches by alerting the major credit outfits (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) that you are a victim. By activating a fraud alert, the agencies will be on the lookout for new credit lines or accounts in your name.
Call the Police
If you’ve already noticed that new account inquiries or odd charges are happening, call the police and file a report. Your police report will also be your documentation that will support your fraud alert to the credit bureaus.
Notify Your Banks
Banks will thank you for alerting them to your situation. They can initiate new debit and credit cards, and they can change your checking or savings account numbers to keep you protected. They don’t want to fund fraudulent transactions, and they are usually efficient in replacing bank cards.
Change Your Passwords
Most Americans shop online and have stored credit cards on a variety of sites. Changing passwords frequently is always a good practice for protecting yourself, but after a data breach you want to make sure you change the login information to all of your accounts. You may even want to create a new email, and tie the accounts to the new email. Old emails with familiar passwords are easy access points for identity thieves.
Call an Attorney
Victims of data breaches have legal options as well. Carter Law Firm handles a wide variety of consumer rights cases. If you have been affected by a recent data breach, we may be able to answer some of you questions.