Have you received any email from an online company informing you that your account has been hacked and that your personal information has been lost in a data breach?
If your answer is yes then you’re not alone. In the past two years, LinkedIn and eHarmony have suffered data breaches that together exposed more than 80 million accounts.
If you’re among the millions of consumers who may have been exposed by a data breach, here are some do’s for you:
- Make a note of exactly what kind of information was lost in the data breach, and how it was protected. Names and physical addresses are the least sensitive pieces of information, email addresses and account passwords are more sensitive, Social Security numbersand credit-card numbers are the most sensitive and the most valuable to identity thieves. The company suffering the breach may tell you that even though email passwords or credit-card numbers were lost, they were encrypted and hence safe.
- Change the password on your account with the affected company right away, if the company hasn’t already done so for you. If you use the same password for accounts with other companies, change those as well.
- Contact your bank and your credit-card issuers, explain that your accounts are at risk of fraud and ask them to alert you immediately if they detect suspicious activity on your accounts. Professional credit-card thieves will try to “bust out” stolen card numbers with many purchases in a matter of hours, often on weekends when banks are not fully staffed.
- Ask your country’s major consumer credit-reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on your name. This way, if anyone tries to steal your financial identity for example, by trying to open a credit-card account in your name you will get to know.
If you’re a U.S. resident, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission to create an identity-theft affidavit, and then file a report with your local police force. Make sure you document each phone call made, and each email message and letter sent, during your efforts.
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