Sixty-four percent of Americans report being victims of a data breach. It might seem like data breaches are so common that you should just give up trying to protect yourself, but thieves look for easy targets. If you do nothing, you’re more likely to leave yourself open to other damage.
IdentityTheft.gov has detailed information and steps you can take to resolve issues from recent data breaches, including:
- MyFitnessPal (March 2018)
- Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks OFF 5th (April 2018)
- Equifax (2017)
- Yahoo (Sept. 2016)
Many large companies, schools and government organizations offer free identity theft protection after a breach. If you received notification that your information was compromised, research the services offered, but also beware of scammers. Sometimes thieves will pose as legitimate companies to try to get your information. Only go through verified websites and customer service numbers.
Freezing your credit prevents anyone from getting loans or opening new credit accounts in your name. You’ll have to place the freeze with all three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), which costs up to $10 at each. Of course, a credit freeze also means that you won’t be able to get loans or new credit either, until you lift the freeze, which can cost another $12 per bureau.
FRAUD ALERTS AND CREDIT MONITORING
If you don’t want to completely freeze your credit, you can place a fraud alert. This allows potential creditors to access your credit report, but requires that they verify your identity (for example, by calling your mobile number) before opening new accounts. This doesn’t protect against thieves using your existing account numbers.
Credit monitoring is when you hire a third-party to watch your credit report and known identity theft sites to spot any unusual activity. There are free as well as paid credit monitoring services available. But even this is not a fail-safe solution and it might have unintended consequences. For example, after the data breach at Equifax, the company offered a year of free credit monitoring to those affected. However, some industry experts warned that agreeing to this service would limit your ability to join any class action lawsuits against Equifax in the future.
Cybercrime doesn’t just affect big companies. You could find yourself targeted by ransomware, which is when thieves infect your computer or phone through malicious links in online ads or email links and attachments and then hold your files for ransom. If you’re hit with a scam, don’t give in to the pressure to act right away. Do some research at sites like NoMoreRansom.org and BleepingComputer.com.
Identity theft isn’t fun, but it’s a reality that we will be dealing with for many years to come. Watch your accounts and take precautions to keep yourself safe, but don’t worry too much about it. No matter how bad the damage is, you can recover.
As always, we’ve got your back. — The On Your Own Team
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by On Your Own, the National Endowment for Financial Education or any of its affiliate programs.]