In light of the recent news of a breach of payment card data at Target, you should be aware of the increased risk of identity theft to help protect yourself from becoming a victim. A study released earlier this year by Javelin Strategy & Research, reported that one in four data breach notification recipients became a victim of identity fraud. Data breaches may involve different types of personal information that criminals may use to commit various types of fraud or sell, potentially increasing the chance that the breached data may be misused at some point in the future.
"When you hear that your personal information may have been compromised, take the notification seriously and take measures to monitor and protect your personal information," said Steve Schwartz, President of Identity Guard. "When a data breach occurs, fraudsters may not immediately take action; it could be months - maybe years - before they misuse the data. Taking proactive action today could be the difference that allows you to catch fraud before it causes undue financial and personal distress. "
These tips will help you protect your personal information in the event of a data breach:
- Change your passwords.
Now is a good time to review all instances where a password is required to access information. If the same password is used across multiple websites, immediately reset the password at each of those sites. Keep in mind that each account should have its own unique password, made up of numbers, letters and symbols. Never use information such as your date of birth or any part of your Social Security number as part of your password. The longer a password is, the harder it is to guess.
- Don't click on email links.
Criminals often use phishing attempts to try to get you to disclose more personal information to help them further their attempts at committing potential identity fraud. Never open an email from an unknown sender and avoid downloading file attachments and clicking on embedded links.
- Verify a website is safe.
It's always best to type out a website address instead of clicking on a link from an email, no matter how legitimate the email may look. Before submitting any personal information, be sure the webpage address begins with 'https' and look for the closed padlock symbol either in the address bar or in the bottom of the screen which indicates a secure connection.
- Monitor your financial statements.
Even if your financial information is not identified as being compromised in a known breach, be sure you monitor all of your financial documents for any suspicious activity and report it immediately as identity thieves could gain access to this information through other methods.
- Notify the appropriate authorities.
If you discover your information has been compromised, file a police report and contact your financial institutions alerting them that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to reach out to each of the three credit bureaus and issue a fraud alert. Review your credit reports thoroughly and immediately report back any inconsistencies.
- Enroll in an identity monitoring service.
Consider enrolling in a service like, Identity Guard that can help you timely monitor personal and financial information and activity related to your credit, public records, etc.