Within the last few years there have been reports of data breaches at some of the largest organizations in the country. Examples include Target, Home Depot and more recently, Uber, PayPal and Equifax. A data breach occurs when a criminal gains access to your personal information, such as name, Social Security Number and credit card number, by bypassing the security measures put in place by you or a company that stores your information. All reputable companies have security measures in place to protect themselves and your information from a breach; however, cyber criminals work relentlessly to gain access to this information. Following are a few things you can do to protect your information from being compromised.
Check to see if your information is on the dark web.
The dark web is a hidden network of websites that are often used for illegal activity. The quality and quantity of personal information stored on the dark web makes it valuable to fraudsters looking for stolen data. If you use an identity theft protection or credit protection service, find out if they offer a dark web scan to determine if any of your information is for sale. As a part of their services, they should work with you to remediate any personal information that is exposed.
Check your credit report.
The three major credit bureaus each provide one free credit report per year through annualcreditreport.com. We encourage you to review your credit report for any activity that looks suspicious or that you know you didn’t initiate. If any erroneous or fraudulent activity exists, work with the bureau to have it removed. To maximize your monitoring strategy, request the report from a different bureau as frequently as every four months. If you have children, be sure to ask for a credit scan for minors to determine if their identity has been compromised. The bureaus will work with you to fix anything that you did not initiate.
Monitor your accounts and statements regularly and often.
With online and mobile banking, monitoring or tracking your transaction history can be done in seconds. It’s recommended that you login at least once a week to review your account history for any suspicious transactions. Always notify your financial institution immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary or suspect you are the victim of unauthorized activity.
Don’t share too much information.
When using social networks, limit the information you share. Avoid giving your age, birth date and other personally identifiable information when filling out profiles. If the information is not required, don’t provide it. Also, limit your exposure by restricting the amount of personal and travel information you share on the web and social networks.
Be password smart.
Generate a different password for each site you use. Each password should be strong, with a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols. You can also use a password manager to generate passwords and store them in an encrypted database. Check with your product and service providers to determine if they include password management software with their services.
By being vigilant and implementing these best practices, you can better protect yourself from fraud and identity theft. As always, if you suspect that you have been a victim of fraud or your account has been compromised, immediately contact your financial institution and other appropriate product and service providers.