What is a Data Breach?
A data breach occurs when your confidential information is exposed. This can be intentional or on accident when a cybercriminal hacks into company databases with whom you have shared your personal information or when an employee accidentally shares your information on the Internet. This can result in the loss or theft of your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers, personal health information, passwords, or email. People who steal this information can profit from it, at your expense. It can be incredibly detrimental to your credit or safety.
These data breaches can happen at retailers, hospitals, corporations, government offices, colleges, and more. But what can happen if someone gets ahold of your information? They can use it to steal your money or benefits. They may be able to:
- Open and use new credit cards in your name
- Withdraw money from your banking or investment accounts
- File a tax return in your name and take the tax refund
- Get medical treatment using your health insurance
- Apply for government benefits
- Open utility or telecom accounts
- Steal or use your credit card rewards, such as points, cashback, or airline miles
- Sell your information on the dark web
How can you Protect Yourself?
You can take steps to protect yourself from identity theft. The businesses and companies that hold your information have a responsibility to protect your information, but you can also take extra precautions. These steps include:
- Shredding documents
- Using secure websites
- Give your Social Security number only when required
- Create strong passwords by using upper and lowercase letters, non-sequential numbers, and special characters.
- Using different passwords for each account
- Making sure your computers are running the latest operating systems/applications
- Monitor your transactions online or on account statements to make sure they are accurate.
- Regularly check your credit report for inaccurate information
What can you do if your Information is Exposed?
Take these steps if you believe your information has been stolen:
- Find out what data was stolen
- Contact your financial institution
- Change your passwords
- Check your free credit reports
- Look for suspicious activity
It can be scary to have your information stolen, but there are ways you can fix it. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so take precautions where you can and keep an eye out for unusual activity so you can stay on top of your information!