5 Things to Do If Your Information is Stolen in a Data Breach

With recent data breaches in the headlines, many consumers are concerned about protecting their personal information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, companies and government agencies were the victims of 1,093 data breaches in 2016, which was a 40 percent increase over 2015.

By knowing what steps to take if you are involved in a breach, you can act quickly and potentially minimize the damage. Waiting to see what happens is a risky move; it’s important to move quickly and take action. 

Here are five things to do if your data is stolen as part of a breach:

1.    Sign up for credit monitoring. Credit monitoring alerts you to any changes in your credit, which can often be early signs of identity theft. You will likely receive an email or letter from the company letting you know what information was exposed in the breach. In many cases, the company that was breached will set up a website to provide information for victims or notify victims by mail.

2.    Put a fraud alert on your credit report. If your social security number was stolen, have a fraud alert placed on your credit report by calling one of the three credit reporting bureaus. This means that anyone issuing credit in your name will know to take extra precautions to verify your identity.

3.    Consider freezing your credit. This means that no one can open a line of credit in your name. If your identity was stolen and the theft was reported, the $10 fee for freezing credit at each bureau is waived. The freeze stays on your credit until you specifically remove the freeze.

4.    Monitor your credit closely. After a breach, you are entitled to a free credit report to make sure your identity has not been stolen. Be sure to request your free credit report and carefully look through the report to make sure no fraudulent accounts have been opened.

5.      Close any accounts with information that was breached. If your bank account information was exposed, close the account and open a new bank account. Close any credit card accounts included in the breach, then open new accounts and continue to review your accounts for fraudulent charges.

No one wants to be involved in a data breach. But by being prepared and knowing what to do, it is likely that you can minimize the damage.