EuphioMachine. “Apparently they were able to see my email, name, phone number, address and my Social Security number.”
Do you know how to keep your personal information safe? If you’ve ever purchased a product or service online, submitted your taxes online, or filled out a job application with your name, birthdate, and Social Security number, your information could be leaked in a breach.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your data from getting into the wrong hands. Here’s what you need to know to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
While data breaches can’t be entirely prevented, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk, including the following.
It seems like most retail businesses ask for your email, zip code, or phone number when you’re checking out. Most of this information is used for marketing research and targeting. But you should know you don’t have to give any of it out, either in person or online (unless you’re having something shipped to you). Don’t be afraid to ask why the information is necessary to complete a purchase.
When it comes to filling out financing applications at stores or submitting credit card numbers for automatic payments, you do need to surrender more personal information. But make sure every piece of data you hand out is absolutely needed by an institution before doing so.
The correct response to a data breach notification varies. Should you be notified by mail that a breach has occurred, complete the necessary steps if the data obtained puts you at risk (more on this below). But if you receive notification through email, be cautious. These notifications can be false and sent from hackers posing as legitimate companies with links or attachments containing malware.
Not all breaches are announced to the public. To see the latest breaches or check to see if a company has been hacked, visit privacyrights.org/data-breach.
We’ve all heard of credit card numbers being stolen and used to make unwarranted purchase, but what about health insurance cards? There were 87,765 cases of medical and insurance-related identity theft in 2018, an alarming number for a type of identity theft not often discussed.
Take the time to periodically check your paid out medical insurance benefits to make sure no one is posing as you to receive treatment and be sure to shred all medical documents once you no longer need them.
Check credit card bills, bank statements, insurance claims, and any other financial accounts on a regular basis. Always check to make sure log in records match your sign-in dates and look for any other suspicious activity.
You should also monitor your Social Security earnings record. Whenever possible, activate notifications for suspicious activity on all your accounts (financial or not).
While you should change your passwords every so often, it’s more important to come up with a strong password for every account you have.
If you struggle to keep track of your passwords, using a password manager can help. And whenever it’s offered, take advantage of two-factor authentication as well.
You can take all the right precautionary steps and still fall victim to a data breach. But even if you are informed that your personal data has been leaked, there’s no need to panic just yet. The first step is to find out what kind of information was put at risk and then determine what the next step should be.
Stolen data falls into three categories.
If you’re concerned about becoming a victim of leaked information, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. This is a type of notice that will pop up when someone attempts to open a new line of credit under your name, whether it’s you or an imposter. In the U.S., fraud alerts are free for anyone who asks.
You’re also entitled to three free credit reports a year (one from each bureau). You can ask for them all at once, but we recommend spacing them out throughout the year so you can catch any suspicious activity as soon as possible.
Learning how to keep your personal information safe will always take time and effort, and at the end of the day, you can’t prevent every data breach. But by making security and data protection a part of your routine, you’ll be better protected should the unthinkable happen.