With the growing number of companies facing data breaches, such as the recent Chili’s breach, it is important to know what to do as a consumer if a company you’ve done business with falls victim. What can you do to keep yourself, your money, and your identity safe after a data breach? Read below to find out!
What Was Stolen?
It is important to know what type of data was stolen. This will help determine the next course of action. Sometimes, the breach is limited to names and addresses of customers, which is relatively low-risk. Much of this information is publicly available in phone books and online directories.
Where the risk starts to pile up however, is when the data includes email addresses, online passwords, dates of birth, payment cards (with or without security codes), and Social Security Numbers. With this information, attackers could potentially compromise your identity, or make unauthorized payments from your card.
Account Credentials Stolen
If credentials for online accounts were stolen (email addresses and passwords), it is important to change your password immediately. The passwords need to be changed not only for the affected website or organization, but any other websites you may use the same password for. Once attackers have a list of passwords, they will frequently try to use the same credentials on other websites as well. For example, if a social media account is compromised, and the same login information is used for your bank account, you could face financial loss.
Card and Identity Information
If the data includes financial or identity related information, such as card numbers and Social Security Numbers, there are several steps that need to be taken immediately to prevent damage. With this information, an attacker could completely compromise your identity, potentially ruining your credit history.
- Contact your bank or financial institution: Let them know your information was involved in a data breach. Ask them to monitor your account for fraudulent activity. Let them know you want to sign up for credit monitoring as well.
- Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus: Ask them to put a fraud alert on your account. This will notify you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
- Equifax (1-888-766-0008)
- Experian (1-888-397-3742)
- TransUnion (1-800-680-7289)
- Contact the company affected by the breach: In many cases, companies affected by a data breach will provide resources to consumers affected. This can include free credit monitoring services.
It’s Too Late, Someone Stole my Identity!
If your identity is stolen, it is important to take steps quickly to mitigate any damages. A stolen identity can cause damage that can take years to fix. Be aware that you will not be held responsible for fraudulent charges, so it is important to notify your financial institution(s) at the first indication of fraud.
An important and often overlooked step is to file a police report with your local police department. Let them know you were a victim of identity theft. While the police may not be able to do much, the report will be useful in any legal proceedings that may be required to repair the damage. You should also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Keep detailed records of who you have contacted, the individuals you spoke with, and what was said. These records will be useful as the process can be involved and complicated.
Contact the credit reporting agencies listed above and ask them to put a freeze on your name. This will prevent the identity thief from applying from further credit and can help track the individual down if they make more attempts.