Your data could have been compromised in a number of ways: your credit card information could have been exposed as a result of a retailer’s payment system being hacked, your personal information such as Social Security number and birth date could have been stolen off of a federal employee’s computer, or you were a victim of an email phishing scam. Data breaches happen in many different forms. However it happened to you, make sure you equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to take the necessary next steps and to protect yourself from another breach in the future.
The first thing you must do is identify what type of breach has occurred. This will lead you to your specific next steps. The most common types of breaches are:
- Your credit card number. Call your creditor and request to cancel your card and have them reissue a new card with a new account number. You will have the opportunity to dispute any fraudulent transactions before you have to pay your bill. Be sure to monitor all of your account transactions online and call your creditor to dispute any charges you did not make.
- Your debit card number. You are at a higher risk if your debit card number has been compromised because funds can quickly be withdrawn from your account without your knowledge. Act quickly and call your financial institution to have them cancel your card and change your pin number. If your bank account number was also exposed, close the account and open a new one with a new number. View for more information: http://time.com/money/2791975/suspicious-charge-credit-debit-card/.
- Your Social Security number. Immediately contact Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion and have them place a fraud alert on your account. That credit reporting agency is legally required to notify the other two agencies to do the same. A fraud alert will flag your account as a potential victim of fraud and that creditors should take extra steps to verify your identity before issuing credit. Be sure to monitor your credit reports on an ongoing basis. You could also freeze your account for more protection.
- Your email address and/or passwords. Be extra cautious when opening emails that request information or contain links. If you are suspicious of an email, research the contact information for the sender and directly call them to verify the email. If your password has been compromised, immediately change your passwords and all accounts that have similar passwords. Carefully monitor your accounts for people using them without your knowledge.
Here are additional resources to consider if you have been a victim of a data breach:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- Read the FTC's guide, Taking Charge: What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen, www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/idtheft/idt04.shtm
- Online information and complaint form: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
Identity Theft Resource Center
- Web: http://www.idtheftcenter.org
- Fact Sheets, Solutions and Form Letters for victims: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/Help-for-Victims/document-catalogue.html