People are getting more and more reminders from recent news headlines about how they can never take the safety of their personal financial data for granted - even when they take extra care to make sure their credit card statements and other documents are secure.
The media has long highlighted a string of data breach incidents where a major retailer or other institution, such as a hospital or university, had allowed personal data to wind up in the hands of hackers or to have the information otherwise compromised.
One of the latest examples involves the entertainment company Dave & Buster's, which recently settled with the Federal Trade Commission over claims that it had left customers' credit and debt card information vulnerable to hackers.
This was said to have resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in fraudulent credit charges, and about 130,000 credit and debit cards were affected.
According to the FTC, the company failed to take measures to detect and prevent unauthorized access to its computer network. It was also cited for failing to sufficiently restrict outside access to its computer network, and for not taking steps to protect its network from being compromised via wireless access points.
The settlement includes a commitment by Dave & Buster's to upgrade its data procedures and to have its security measures independently audited each year for the next decade.
This is hardly the only example of a large institution or corporation mishandling sensitive data that could fall into the hands of identity thieves. Elsewhere, the Washington Post recently told the story of a data breach involving Educational Credit Management, which deals in student loans.
According to the Post, personal data from as many as 3.3 million people is thought to have been stolen, with many of the affected consumers living in the Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland region. The newspaper added that so far, there does not appear to be any evidence of misuse of the personal data.
Some companies have been slow to spot or report data breaches, which is one more reason why consumers should occasionally take some time to check their credit report for any suspicious activity or mistakes that appear on it. Others may want to consider a credit monitoring service. This is especially the case for people who are interested in making a major purchase, such as a home or auto, in the coming months.