Data breaches frequently make headlines, yet hackers could have your information in hand without you ever hearing a word.
In just one recent year, over 150 million individuals experienced the exposure of sensitive information, encompassing passwords, phone numbers, home addresses, financial records, and other confidential data.
Following such breaches, hackers may attempt to access the breached account through your email address and password. They can employ this same combination to access numerous other accounts—a tactic known as credential stuffing.
Whether you’ve fallen victim to a data breach or need to proactively safeguard your data from potential security lapses, specific actions can regain control of your accounts and shield your personal information.
Immediately change your passwords, add a security alert to your credit reports, place a security freeze on your credit reports, and consult a data breach lawyer ASAP.
These actions will secure your information, but there’s a lot more you need to know.
Identify the Breach
The first action in a data breach is identifying the extent of the exposed information. Specify what information the breach compromised.
Occasionally, organizations may inform you if your data is in a breach. You can also search various data breach databases to determine whether a breach compromised your email address or phone number.
Once a password is exposed, you must change it everywhere you’ve used it, not just at the source of the breach. A password manager is the fastest method. It can tell you every place you use that password.
Use complicated passwords with letters, numbers, capitalization, and symbols so that it’s hard to guess. Try never to use words or phrases. They’re too easy to decipher.
A password manager can suggest complex passwords and save them for you.
Change Text-Based MFA to an Authentication App
You can enhance your security by using multifactor authentication (MFA) to make it harder for hackers to access. Your password and another layer of security are required to log in.
Switching to an authentication app like Google Authenticator or Authy is good if you receive security codes via text messages.
Review your text messages to see which services have sent your security codes to know which ones to switch. Check if these accounts support using an authenticator app for MFA.
Some accounts may not allow you to use MFA authenticator apps or hardware keys. A solution is getting a Google Voice number for those requiring a phone number as a second layer of authentication.
Freeze Your Credit
Freezing your credit is a proactive and effective measure to protect your information from unauthorized access.
It restricts access to your credit reports, making it challenging for potential fraudsters to open accounts in your name.
- Understanding credit freezes: A credit freeze, or a security freeze, locks your credit reports, preventing anyone, including lenders and creditors, from accessing your credit information without explicit permission.
- Why freeze your credit: Freezing your credit is crucial in safeguarding your financial identity. It prevents identity thieves from opening credit accounts, taking out loans, or applying for credit cards using your personal information. Do this if you experienced a data breach or worry about your data’s security.
How to Freeze Your Credit
- Contact each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request a credit freeze online, by phone, or through the mail. Their websites provide step-by-step instructions.
- Provide personal information, including your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. They use it to verify your identity and initiate the freeze.
- You may need to pay fees to freeze and unfreeze your credit. Some states, such as New York and New Jersey, require free freezes for identity theft victims, while others charge a nominal fee.
- Each credit bureau provides a unique Personal Identification Number (PIN) after freezing your credit. You’ll need them to lift or temporarily thaw the freeze when necessary.
Managing a credit freeze:
You can temporarily lift the freeze using your PIN to apply for credit or open a new account.
Even with a credit freeze, monitoring your financial accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity is crucial. Request free annual credit reports to review your credit history.
Freezing your credit protects against identity theft and financial fraud. While it may involve some initial effort and potential fees, the added security and peace of mind make it a wise choice for anyone looking to protect their financial well-being.
Delete Unused Accounts
Too many digital accounts increase the risk of misusing or stealing your data. To find them, type your usernames into a search engine and look for combinations of your name and email address.
Look for phrases like “welcome to” or “new account” in your inbox.
Activate a Fraud Alert
Fraud alerts help safeguard your financial identity and prevent unauthorized access to your credit reports. Lenders and creditors see them as red flags, warning them to use extra safety measures when processing credit applications in your name.
Understanding Fraud Alerts
You can place a fraud alert on your credit reports so potential creditors and lenders know that you are a victim of identity theft. It prompts them to take additional steps to confirm your identity before approving any credit applications.
There are three types of fraud alerts:
- Initiate fraud alert: This alert lasts for 90 days and is suitable if you suspect you might become a victim of identity theft or have lost your wallet or personal information.
- Extended fraud alert: This alert lasts seven years and is ideal if you are a victim of identity theft and have police reports to substantiate your claim.
- Active-duty military alert: Designed for military members deployed overseas, this alert is active for one year and minimizes unsolicited credit offers.
Contact a credit bureau: Contact any major credit bureau—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Request a fraud alert online, by phone, or via mail. The bureau you contact is required to notify the other two.
Provide your information: You’ll need personal information, including your name, address, social security number, and date of birth, to verify your identity.
Choose the alert: Specify whether you want an initial fraud alert (90 days), an extended fraud alert (seven years), or an active-duty military alert (one year).
Verify contact information: Ensure the credit bureau has your current contact information so creditors can reach you to verify any credit applications.
Managing a fraud alert:
You can renew an initial fraud alert after 90 days. An extended alert will automatically expire after seven years unless you choose to remove it earlier. Contact the credit bureau to request removal.
Identity Monitoring Services
Identity monitoring services provide round-the-clock vigilance, keeping a close eye on your credit reports.
They detect unusual credit inquiries, new accounts, and changes in your credit history, immediately alerting you to any potential signs of identity theft. Early detection can promptly mitigate damage and prevent further unauthorized activity.
These services also monitor your online presence, including social media accounts and the dark web, where criminals buy and sell stolen personal information. They notify you if they find your information there.
A proactive approach lets you secure your accounts and information before cybercriminals exploit them.
Many identity monitoring services offer insurance to cover expenses related to identity theft recovery, further enhancing your protection.
Continuous surveillance and proactive alerts give you the upper hand in protecting your personal and financial information.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if I’m Involved in a Data Breach?
Hire a lawyer to protect your rights and interests during a data breach, in which you will face legally complex, state, federal, and international laws.
A data privacy and cybersecurity lawyer can help you navigate this intricate legal landscape, explaining your rights and obligations.
If you suffered financial losses or emotional distress from a data breach, a lawyer can seek compensation. They assess the extent of your damages and work to ensure you receive fair compensation for your losses.
Data breach lawyers can guide you through recovering your stolen identity and mitigating the impact. They can help secure your personal information and prevent further harm.
Engaging a lawyer provides peace of mind, knowing you have a legal advocate dedicated to protecting your rights and interests during a challenging time.
They understand data privacy laws, help you navigate the legal complexities, and work diligently to safeguard your rights and financial well-being in the face of a data breach.
Guarding Your Digital Fortress: Taking Action When Your Data Falls into the Wrong Hands
You don’t have to go through this alone.
The legal system is no place for a layperson. It takes years to learn how to work as a lawyer and even longer to learn the ins and outs of data breach cases. At Jacoby & Meyers, LLP, we dedicate our time to helping data breach victims recover their losses and return to their regular lives.
Please call us at (877) 565-2993 to discuss your legal options and how we can help you.