What are Data Breaches?
A data breach occurs when your personal information is exposed. This can be intentional or on accident. It can happen 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 bank account, credit card numbers, Social Security number, personal health information, passwords, or email. People who steal this information can profit from it. It can be incredibly detrimental to your credit, safety, or budget.
These data breaches can happen at retailers, hospitals, corporations, government offices, colleges, and more. So what are some of the things that can happen if someone gets a hold 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, cash back, or airline miles
- Sell your information on the dark web
How can you Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft?
You can take steps to protect yourself from data breaches and 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 Stolen?
Take these steps if you believe your information has been exposed or 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 frightening to have your information stolen, but there are ways you can stop 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 personal information!