In the last year, we’ve seen major data breaches hit large organizations and expose the sensitive data of millions of consumers. This has put many in a frightening position, because there isn’t always certainty in how to proceed after a breach. In many cases, the aftermath is messy and victims often feel helpless. However, there are plenty of ways consumers can transform their concern into defensive actions. The key? Don’t panic.
“We want people to react, but not panic,” Eva Velasquez, chief executive of the Identity Theft Resource Center, told the New York Times.
The question remains, though: When should you “react?” Here we have three important tips on when and how to take action in the wake of a data breach so you can go forward with clarity, even when your head is spinning and can’t get answers elsewhere:
Take action immediately
In some cases, like the Office of Personnel Management data breach in 2015, victims may not be notified for some time. Because there’s no telling exactly if or a when a hacker will use your information, it’s important to act as soon as possible to minimize the damage.
For the same reason, you’ll need to be thorough and maintain any security habits you form post-data breach. There are a range of steps you can take to do so – some more drastic than others, like closing an email account or replacing a credit card.
Know your options
After a data breach, the organization may offer you some services, like credit monitoring , to help you through this time. You should be aware of all the available options to protect yourself, like obtaining a credit freeze.
More importantly, you should know your right to receive a free credit report from each of the three bureaus each year. You should submit staggered requests for your reports following a breach to keep an eye on your credit, looking out for any suspicious activity or incorrect information.
Improve your personal security
After learning that a data breach might have compromised your personal information, you’ll want to immediately re-strategize your own personal security tactics. Depending on what details were caught up in the hack, these changes can range from minor to complete overhaul.
In these cases, though, it’s always better to err on the side of caution, especially on the internet. You can do so by updating all your passwords, using multifaceted techniques like security questions to protect your log-in information (especially for your email address), installing anti-virus software, avoiding suspicious emails or messages, among other various online security efforts.
According to Bankrate, scammers may try to capitalize on the data breach by reaching out to you via email, purporting to have important details about the incident but actually sending around malware or phishing for information. Instead of opening these emails, go directly to the company to seek out directions on how to proceed after the breach.
There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with data breaches. That’s why you’ll need assistance in ensuring the safety of your information after experiencing one for yourself. You should consider investing in a service like Identity Guard, which can monitor your credit files and notify you of certain activity that may indicate fraud.