What to Do if You’ve Been Caught up in a Data Breach

NOV 03, 2011

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The numbers were shocking when they came out last year: since 2005, more than 500 million sensitive records have been breached, according to the Privacy Rights Clearing House.

Thats half a billion records.

And its been a year since we those numbers were figured. With regular headlines on data breaches, those numbers certainly havent gone down in the past year.

When you take proactive steps to prevent identity theft, it can be frustrating to realize you may still be at risk because of the companies that have and store your personal information.

More than 329 million of those breaches were the result of hacking or malware, payment card fraud (like the use of a skimming device) and intentional breaches by insiders, the PRC reports.

Affected data has ranged from names, addresses and birth dates to Social Security numbers and financial account numbers.

So what do you do if youve been caught up in a data breach?

First, dont jump to any conclusions. You need to be sure youve really been exposed to a breach. Identity thieves have been known to scam victims by sending fake email alerts, posing as financial institutions, hospitals, retailers and even the government. The emails claim your information has been compromised and ask you to log in to a website to verify  or update  your info by entering it again.

Most companies or institutions will notify you of a breach by snail mail, not email or even phone. Once you know that a breach has occurred, the PRC recommends you:

  • Determine the type of breach
  • Notify the credit bureaus and have them set up fraud alerts
  • Access your credit reports and examine them carefully
  • Continue monitoring them on a regular basis
  • Consider establishing a security freeze

Unfortunately, security breaches come with a tremendous potential for harm. In the wrong hands, your personal identifying information can give identity thieves the power to really mess up your credit report and score.

If youve been caught up in a data breach, its important to act quickly to protect your good credit standing.