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How To Protect Yourself From a Data Breach

September 30, 2016

What is a data breach?

The technical definition is broad and can include any type of data theft from someone stealing a victim’s purse or wallet all the way up to the headline-grabbing data breaches of major corporations. But the ones that affect the most people are when a company’s customer database is hacked by cybercriminals and personally identifiable information (PII) is stolen or exposed.

What You
Should Know

Data breaches are now happening to larger corporations, releasing consumers’ information.

What You
Can Do

Change your password immediately if your personal info was released due to a breach.

Woman holding a credit card and looking at her laptop to illustrate data-breach prevention

What are the risks?

Data breaches are an ongoing and growing problem. In 2015, 500 million personal records were exposed worldwide—a 23% increase over 2014. *1 Once thieves get ahold of someone’s information they can impersonate them through identity theft or sell the info to other criminals who use it to make fake credit cards or fill out fake tax returns to defraud the IRS.

In 2015, 500 million personal records were exposed worldwide.1

What you can do to protect yourself:

While there is nothing you can do to prevent a data breach at the companies you do business with, there are numerous things you can do to protect yourself if one happens and you’ve been notified that your personal information was exposed:

  • Take advantage of free credit monitoring – If the company, organization or government agency involved offers free credit monitoring, take it.
  • Change your passwords – Change your passwords as soon as you are notified of the breach.
  • Check your credit report – Get a free credit report from and look at any accounts you did not open or charges you do not recognize.
  • Freeze your credit – Consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your accounts so it will be harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
  • Submit your tax return early – File your taxes early so a scammer cannot file in your name.
  • Ignore anonymous threats – Don’t believe anonymous callers who say you’ll be arrested unless you pay up for taxes you “owe” or a debt.
  • Watch your statements – Check your credit card statements carefully for charges you did not make.
  • Cancel your cards – Get new credit and debit cards.
  • Freeze your children’s credit – Request a credit freeze for your children if their information was part of the breach. This will make it difficult for someone to use your children’s information to open accounts.
There were 318 data breaches in 2015.1
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