A data breach is a serious event where a hacker or group of hackers gains access to sensitive records by slipping through a crack in a business’s cyber security. Through breaches, cyber criminals can access social security numbers, email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, trade secrets and more.
And while not every data breach results in identity theft, it can be a catastrophic event for both businesses and the individual victims of the breach.
So, what should you do if you learn that your personal information has been compromised?
1. Follow instructions
According to Time Magazine, one third of all data breach victims who receive notification about the breach ignore the information. It’s important to pay attention to the instructions released by the targeted company. Unlike losing a wallet or smartphone, in the case of a data breach, specific information is stolen. The targeted company likely knows the kinds of data stolen, making it easier for you to protect yourself immediately. You also may receive an offer from the impacted company for a free credit monitoring service. Take it. You’ll be able to quickly see if your credit cards were compromised. If the company doesn’t offer a monitoring service, remember that you can always check your credit report using free services online.
2. Call financial institutions
In many data breach cases, credit card and debit numbers are targeted. Call your financial intuition and credit card issuer and request new cards right away. If a hacker gains access to your online account, applying for new credit lines, transferring money to other accounts or requesting checks and debit cards is very easy.
3. Use caution with email
If your email address was stolen, get ready for an increase of spam-related emails. Careful: some of that spam could double as another kind of cyber tactic to steal financial information. Don’t click on anything that looks suspicious. Change your password to a stronger password just to be safe.
4. Protect other identifying information
If you think personally identifiable information like your social security number or ID was stolen, visit Identitytheft.gov and move through the steps on their website.