Did you recently get a notice that says your personal information was exposed in a data breach? Did you lose your wallet? Or learn that an online account was hacked? Depending on what information was lost, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.
- Be extra careful about emails and attachments. Avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from suspicious emails that claim to be updates from any company connected to a data breach. Learn More
- Use Two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication adds a second level of authentication to an account log-in. When you have to enter only your username and one password, that's considered a single-factor authentication. 2FA requires the user to have two out of three types of credentials before being able to access an account. Learn More
- File your taxes promptly. While thieves may use stolen information to create fraudulent bank accounts, they may also use it to file fraudulent tax returns. File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information you need and respond promptly to letters sent to you by the IRS. Note that the IRS will never communicate with you via email, so watch out for this type of fraud and don’t open emails purporting to be from the IRS
- Check your Credit Cards accounts often. Reviewing your recent account activity is fundamental to credit card safety—and it’s easy. You can do it online or by phone. If your credit card issuer offers email or text alerts about unusual activity, sign up to receive them.
- Monitor credit reports. Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name. Credit reports are available for free, from each of the three national credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — every 12 months from http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Some monitoring services and credit card companies now allow you unlimited access to credit information, so you could theoretically check every day.
- Order specialty free reports outside of the big three credit reporting agencies. Specialty reporting companies may disclose information that can help prevent fraudulent accounts and other identity theft crimes:
LexisNexis Full File Disclosure. It’s one of the more comprehensive databases out there, containing all the information LexisNexis gathers to create its various reports about you. And, like credit reports, you can order one free copy per year. Please visit: https://personalreports.lexisnexis.com/access_your_full_file_disclosure.jsp
Complete List: For a complete list, please visit the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201604_cfpb_list-of-consumer-reporting-companies.pdf
What to do if you suspect credit card fraud. Call the bank or financial institution that issued your card immediately. Your issuer may want to cancel your current card and issue you a new one. Check with your issuer to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.
If you still have your card but fraudulent purchases have been made, call your issuer to report the fraud and request a new card. Also, contact the credit bureaus to let them know that fraud has occurred. A "Fraud Alert" message will be placed on your file. You should also request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully.
The following information on how to protect against potential data breaches.
- CONSIDER ANOTHER WAY TO PAY - Try newer ways to pay, such as PayPal or Apple Pay. Any technology that avoids you having your credit card in your hand in a store is safer. Those services store your credit card information and it's not given to the retailer when you make a payment. Stored-value cards or apps, such as the ones used at coffee chains Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, are also a safer bet, because they don't expose credit card information at the register.
- SIGN IT, DON'T PIN IT - If you're planning on paying with a debit card, sign for your purchase instead of typing in your personal identification number at the cash register. You can do this by asking the cashier to process the card as a credit card or select credit card on the display. Not entering your PIN into a keypad will help reduce the chances of a hacker stealing that number too. Crooks can do more damage with your PIN, possibly printing a copy of the card and taking money out of an ATM.
- BEWARE OF EMAIL SCAMMERS - After big data breaches are exposed, and get a lot of media attention, scammers come out of the woodwork looking to steal personal information. Some emails may mention the latest breach or offer free credit monitoring, but you should never click on the links. Many are for fake sites that try to steal personal information or passwords.
- KEEP UP WITH CREDIT CARD ACTIVITY - Review credit card activity often for any unauthorized charges. And keep an eye out for smaller charges. Thieves will charge smaller amounts to test to see if you notice and then charge a larger amount later. They may also steal a small amount from millions of accounts, scoring a big payday. Also, take advantage of the many alert features that credit cards companies offer today
- MONITOR CREDIT REPORTS - Check your credit report for any accounts that crooks may have opened in your name. Credit reports are available for free, from each of the three national credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — every 12 months from http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com Some monitoring services and credit card companies now allow you unlimited access to credit information, so you could theoretically check every day.
What information was lost or exposed?