What You Should Do If You Have a Data Breach

What You Should Do If You Experience a Data Breach

Thousands of data breaches have occurred because of poor security, hacking, lost or stolen media or computers, and even accidentally publishing data. These incidents have released billions of records to people who want the data to steal money or identities. One breach in 2019 released 2.7 billion identity records with 774 million email addresses and 21 million passwords. All this data was posted for sale on the internet.

If you have not experienced a data breach yet, the odds are you will be included in one, or more very shortly, especially since most data breaches occur here in the USA. What should you do if your data is breached?

Should You Do a Credit Freeze or Credit Lock?

The terms credit freeze and credit locks are used interchangeably, but they are actually different actions. A credit freeze restricts access so that most lenders cannot see your credit report until you unfreeze it with your security pin number.

If you have been a victim of identity theft or your information has been compromised, a freeze is highly recommended.

A credit lock is similar but it can be unlocked via your phone or computer with a simple phone call. Locks are generally not free and come with some sort of monthly fees. There also may be arbitration clauses that prevent you from joining a class-action lawsuit.

A freeze is free and it will prevent thieves and hackers from taking out loans and credit cards in your name.

Change Your Passwords Often

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, and for good reason. Changing passwords regularly is considered good cybersecurity practice. If you were included in one of the many data breaches for restaurants, hotels, or websites, you should change your password immediately.

You can generate safe and difficult passwords to hack by using a free online password generator, then store your passwords on a website like LastPass or Dashlane. Make sure to change them, at the very minimum, once per year to lessen your chances of being hacked.

Should You Monitor Your Credit?

Absolutely! Credit monitoring is keeping an eye on your entire credit report. Look for credit cards you have not taken out or any strange transaction activity that doesn’t look familiar. You can get a free credit report once a year from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. 

You can even stagger them out so you are getting one every four months, for instance, January for Equifax, May for TransUnion, and September for Equifax.

Companies like CreditKarma will monitor TransUnion and Equifax, and send you email alerts for any questionable activity.

How to Check For a Data Breach

One way to quickly check to see if you’ve been involved in a data breach is to search your email address on the haveibeenpwned.com website. If your email is found in their database, you’ll get a list of data breach activity that contained your personal information. It can be a startling revelation and you should change your password immediately!

Always Practice Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity includes simple practices that you can do yourself without the help of a tech guy. This includes not clicking any links or opening any attachments in emails. If you know the sender but the link looks suspicious, think again before clicking.

Don’t respond to text messages or emails from government agencies, alerts that your PayPal account has been suspended unless you click here immediately, or any other fishing attempts to get you to click a link.

If at all possible, use two-factor authentication when logging in your accounts. This requires you to enter a password and confirm your identity by either logging into your phone and entering an email or text code.

Take Data Breaches Seriously

If you are notified of a data breach, keep a record of what you do in response. You should also document if you have changed your passwords, placed a credit freeze, closed a credit or debit card, etc.

Experts recommend having an email address for traveling and reservations, another for bills, and another for logging into everyday websites. By doing this, you create another layer of cover between your primary email address and your online activities.

Types of Data Breaches

Experts list five different types of data breaches. These include healthcare, financial, government, educational, and entertainment. If you have suffered one, here is a quick guide to what to do.

  • Confirm that the data was breached by calling the company. An email could be a phishing scam. 
  • Find out what data was stolen. Identity thieves may want to impersonate you in order to get health care. 
  • Accept the company’s offers to help in order to get any damage repaired and protect personal information.
  • Change passwords, logins, and security questions and answers
  • Healthcare Data Breach additional action
    • check the benefit statements from your healthcare insurance provider
    • Ask your health care providers for a list of anyone who they shared protected health information (this is free once a year!)
    • Contact any medical facilities who have contacted you for payment for services you didn’t receive. 
    • Check your Healthcare Savings Account (HSA) and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for unexpected use of benefits.
    • Regularly check your credit reports at the three major credit bureaus.
      • Place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file or a 7-year fraud alert if Social Security numbers were stolen
      • Place a credit freeze on your credit report
    • If you have been a victim of identity theft, file an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission, contact Medicare or Medicaid (if applicable) and file a police report.
  • Financial Data Breach additional action
    • Close bank accounts and reopen a different account. 
    • Close credit/debit cards
    • Regularly check your credit reports at the three major credit bureaus.
      • Place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file or a 7-year fraud alert if Social Security numbers were stolen
      • Place a credit freeze on your credit report
    • If you have been a victim of identity theft, file an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission and file a police report.
  • Government Data Breach additional action
    • Regularly check your credit reports at the three major credit bureaus.
      • Place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file or a 7-year fraud alert if Social Security numbers were stolen
      • Place a credit freeze on your credit report
    • Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and possibly the Department of Justice.
    • Monitor all accounts
  • Educational Data Breach additional action
    • Regularly check your credit reports at the three major credit bureaus.
      • Place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file or a 7-year fraud alert if Social Security numbers were stolen
      • Place a credit freeze on your credit report
    • Contact the IRS
    • File a police report
  • Entertainment (Video games, sports venues, etc) Data Breach additional action
    • Regularly check your credit reports at the three major credit bureaus.
      • Place a 90 day fraud alert on your credit file or a 7-year fraud alert if Social Security numbers were stolen
      • Place a credit freeze on your credit report
    • Monitor bank accounts, credit cards, etc

Pacific Debt, Inc

Since you are here on the Pacific Debt website, you may be interested in more than just our educational articles. We are happy to help people learn more about finances, but if your finances are out of control and debt has taken over your life, we may be able to help.

  • In business since 2002
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If you have more questions, contact one of our debt specialists today. The initial consultation is free, and our experts will explain your options.

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