This is concerning news. It’s more important now than ever to understand how to respond if you discover that a business you frequent has suffered a breach. These are time-sensitive situations and acting quickly can make a big difference.
The first thing to do is be on the lookout for alerts from the company itself. Businesses will likely contact those affected and recommend further action. Sometimes they will offer complimentary identity theft protection and credit monitoring for a period of time. It’s advisable to take advantage of this and to follow the measures the company outlines.
If you don’t receive notification that you might be a victim of a breach, but have done business with the affected company, it’s a good idea to be extra vigilant and monitor your accounts for signs that your personal information has fallen into the wrong hands. Check bank accounts for unexplained withdrawals and credit statements for unauthorized charges. Receiving emails about changes to your online accounts may also be a red flag.
Here are a few more steps to take if you are notified that your information may have been compromised in a hack attack:
- File for a fraud alert: Contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus and tell them you believe you may be the victim of identity theft and you want to place a fraud alert. The bureau you contact will notify the other two. This is a free service and will stay on your report for 90 days. If at any point your suspicions about identity theft are proven, you can extend the fraud alert to seven years.
- Get copies of your credit reports: You are eligible to receive one free credit report from each of the three bureaus every year. Examine your report carefully for any unfamiliar information and accounts. If anything on the reports seems to indicate fraud, contact the credit bureau, your bank and credit card companies immediately.
- Create an identity theft report: If you are certain your identity has been stolen, file an identity theft report. Contact the company’s fraud department and then complete a complaint form on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website (www.ftc.gove/complaint). Submit this form and make sure you save the reference number.
- Contact the police: It’s important to contact the police if you are the victim of identity theft in the jurisdiction where the theft occurred. Much of the process of repairing your identity will require that you have a police report of the initial incident. Make sure to keep a copy of the report with your FTC documents.
- Freeze accounts: This means that you won’t be able to use the funds in the frozen account either so don’t take this step unless you are sure someone has stolen your identity or compromised your account.
It is important to act quickly after a data breach. Your reaction speed can make all the difference.