by Dan Friedman
A lot of services these days require you to provide some personal information. This can range from something as simple as your name or phone number to more sensitive data like your credit card number or login information. Unfortunately, sometimes this information gets released through something called a data breach. Data breaches occur when mass amounts of confidential information are illegally accessed by hackers and often made available publicly.
How to protect yourself
To protect yourself, limit how much sensitive information you store on certain websites. Many sites offer to store your payment information so you don’t have to re-enter it each time you buy something. While this may sound convenient, if the site is breached hackers will have access to this information.
Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are online, your information could still be breached from shopping at physical stores. Recent breaches have occurred where someone used an employee’s credentials to access the store’s database, for example.
What to do after a breach
When a data breach does occur, many companies will alert their customers and users. However, you may end up hearing about these breaches from other sources. You can use a site like https://haveibeenpwned.com/ to check whether your information has been compromised. If the breach occurred on a website you use, change your login information immediately. It’s also a good idea to use different passwords across various websites and accounts.
Protecting your financial information
If any type of financial information was breached, call the corresponding bank or organization to let them know. They can cancel your card, and you can work with them to prevent or resolve any fraudulent charges. You can also use websites like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to place a fraud alert. This will make credit grantors verify your identity before extending credit, preventing others from opening credit cards and taking out loans in your name.
Friedman is an instructional designer with GCFLearnFree.org, a program of Goodwill Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Eastern North Carolina Inc. For more information, visit https://www.gcflearnfree.org/thenow/