If you do online shopping, have an email, use social media, and transact using mobile finance apps, you have plenty of information out there. While organizations that collect them have the responsibility to protect your data, they may still fall into the wrong hands.
How many times did you hear about brands experiencing data breaches? Quite a lot, we suppose.
You might have received a data breach notification from one of them, and you may feel a bit lost as to what you should do about it.
How do you protect yourself after a data breach?
Well, this article is for you. We’ve done the research, checked government sources and other authoritative sites, and gathered the best tips on what to do after a data breach as an individual.
So, keep reading and know the top advice we’ve discovered, and don’t miss out on crucial steps to take. You wouldn’t want to worsen the consequences of a data breach like identity theft.
10 ways to protect yourself after a data breach
A data breach means information has been exposed or accessed by unauthorized users.
Not all data breaches result in identity theft but know that your information is already out there.
So, it’s essential that you take security measures to prevent damage in case your information falls into the wrong hands.
Here are some tips to consider:
1. Change your login information
A data breach may have exposed your key personal information, which hackers can use to crack your login details.
If any of the companies or platforms you have accounts with experienced a data breach, make sure that you change your login information.
If possible, change your username and then create a unique and strong password you haven’t used anywhere before.
Pro tip: If you know another language or dialect, you can add them to your password to make it easier to memorize. Hackers usually crack passwords in English, so another language you know by heart can make your passwords stronger. This isn’t foolproof, though, so make sure you also practice other security measures.
2. Freeze your credit
You can request a credit freeze, also called a security freeze, which will prevent anyone from opening a new line of credit under your name.
This means you can’t also apply for new loans or credit cards while the freeze is in effect.
To place a credit freeze, you must contact each of the three credit bureaus.
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3. Place a fraud alert on your credit
If you have an ongoing credit application, a credit freeze may not be ideal. Instead, you can request a fraud alert.
This time, you only have to contact one of the three credit bureaus, which will then inform the other two about your fraud alert request.
Once activated, creditors and other financial institutions will perform another layer of identity verification if someone tries to open an account using your information.
Just visit the website of Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax to place a fraud alert.
4. Monitor your credit card activity
Credit card numbers are also among the most commonly exposed information in data breaches. It helps to keep an eye on your credit card statements. If your credit card provider has an online account platform or mobile app, credit monitoring after a data breach is easier.
Watch out for small charges you didn’t make, which are a sign that thieves are trying out your credit card details before making big purchases.
If you notice any discrepancies, contact your credit card provider immediately and alert them of the fraudulent transactions. They can reverse or block the transaction and issue you a new set of digits.
5. Check your credit reports
It’s also important to check your credit reports for inaccuracies and activities you don’t initiate.
Hackers may use your personal details to open new credit lines or bank accounts under your name.
Of course, they don’t have the intention to pay them, so you might end up with huge debt and your score will decline significantly.
You can dispute the transactions with the three credit bureaus so that the entries will be removed from your credit history.
6. Install a good antivirus program
Hackers who got your information from a data breach may also attempt to access your computer or email. They can infect your device with malware or virus, get your sensitive information, and even blackmail you.
A good antivirus program can help you prevent hacking attempts and block any malware or virus, so make sure you have one installed on your computer.
7. Enable two-factor authentication
Most platforms now (e.g., email, social media, finance apps) have 2FA features. You should take advantage of 2FA so that hackers won’t have an easy time cracking your password, taking over your accounts, and emptying your savings.
8. Be skeptical
If you receive an email, a text, or a call from someone you don’t know, be wary. Even when you receive a message from a friend or acquaintance but it looks odd or suspicious, stay skeptical and don’t click the link or download an attachment quickly.
It’s better to verify the sender’s identity or confirm with your friend that they’ve sent the message. If it’s too good to be true, you don’t expect the message, or it doesn’t seem quite important, you’re more likely dealing with a fake.
9. Check your bank statements
Thieves who got your personal information can gain access to your bank information. They can break into your accounts and get your money.
Watch out for any charges you didn’t make and report any inaccuracies with your bank. Thieves may try any amount they can get away with.
10. Contact financial institutions
If you have active loans and other banking accounts, you may also contact them and let them know that your information has been compromised. They can help monitor your account and verify your identity first if someone makes a request to change information or withdraw a huge amount of money.
How do data breaches happen?
Technology has made our life easier, but it has also opened a lot of possibilities to access information. Businesses, governments, and other organizations collect information so we can transact with them.
Criminals, however, know that they can benefit from those details by using them to hack individuals or sell the data on the dark web.
They can launch a direct attack to steal the database, or employees may handle the data insecurely, which can result in massive data exposure.
Once the information is out there, it’s hard to track who has access to them.
Massive data breaches may be out of our control as individuals, but when they happen, we should do our best to mitigate the impact on our finances and life.
Acting fast is key to preventing damage, so keep in mind the tips we have above so you’ll know what to do. If you’re equipped with the knowledge, you can better protect yourself.