Save your credit, go once more unto the data breach - Albuquerque Journal

Save your credit, go once more unto the data breach

Don’t just sit there; do something.

That’s the bottom line when it comes to a new report showing most people did little to protect themselves when they learned their personal information was exposed in a company data breach.

Such breaches affect most people, especially social media users, according to the study by the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center and DIG.Works, a survey and research group. The study showed 72% of the 1,050 adults surveyed said they had received official notice their information was hacked.

Only 3% took the most effective step – freezing their credit. Credit freezes keep imposters from creating new accounts that require credit checks, such as new loans, credit cards and other major purchases, the report said.

Less than half – 48% – changed their password on the breached account. A “shockingly high” 16% of those surveyed took no action at all after a breach notification.

Failing to take action leaves consumers “vulnerable to additional attacks and a continuing risk of identity crimes,” the report said.

Data breaches have hit companies ranging from Facebook and Yahoo to Costco, UnitedHealth, T-Mobile and many more. Among the information exposed are customers’ credit card information, passwords, email address, phone numbers and even Social Security numbers.

The stolen information can be used by thieves or sold on the so-called dark web. It can even just be posted publicly for anyone to view.

Here are some basic steps to take when a company tells you your information has been exposed:

• Log into the breached account and change your password. Also change your user name, if possible. If you can’t log in, contact the company directly and ask how you can get into the account or how to just shut it down completely.

• If you use that same password on other accounts, change those, too. You don’t want the misery compounded if the thief can get into more than just the hacked account. Be aware that best security practices advise keeping a unique password for each of your separate accounts. Using an easily revealed variation doesn’t count.

• Consider imposing a free credit freeze, which will remain in place until you remove it. This does restrict you from opening a new credit account, but the freeze can be lifted temporarily if you need to apply for new credit. This can be done by contacting each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

• Otherwise, take advantage of free data/credit monitoring services a business offers after a breach. Know, though, that this will not protect against new accounts opened in your name.

• You can check your credit reports by ordering a free report from each of the three reporting companies once a year. Go to annualcreditreport.com/.

• Consider filing your taxes early. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund. Stay safe by beating them to it.

• For future protection, set up two-factor authentication on every account possible. This adds a layer of security because it requires an additional logon credential. Often, this means keying in a security code that will be delivered to your phone or a different device.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-888-255-9210 or file a complaint at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

 

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