Data breaches have been the subject of many news stories lately. Large companies like Target, Home Depot and even Equifax have been hit, exposing millions of pieces of our personal information. It’s only normal to ask, “How do I protect my personal data?” Remember that most identity thieves are not targeting you in particular, they want anyone’s personal data that can be used to open accounts, place fraudulent orders or fake credit credit cards. The harder you make it for them the lower your personal risk will be. Here are a few facts and suggestions you can use to help keep your private information as secure as possible.
Data breaches can happen to anyone at any time
The reality is, you can be as safe and careful as possible and still become a victim of a data breach. Identity thieves are always on the look out for new ways to get a hold on your personal data. The use of credit and debit cards has only made it easier for them. Skimming devices are a common tool for theives. A skimming device typically fits over a legitimate credit card reader at places like gas stations and ATMs and reads your credit card data without you being aware. You can protect yourself by using cash or paying close attention to the credit card reader looking for anything out of place or unusual about it. Sometimes gently wiggling or pulling on the credit card slot is not a bad idea.
All three credit reporting agencies offer what is called a credit freeze. Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit. All three agencies charge a small nominal fee to enable the freeze and another fee to disable it.
Make sure that you carefully monitor your monthly statements for unauthorized charges and report them to your financial institution as soon as possible. Using a credit card over a debit card is a a great choice as it is not tied to your bank account. If it is comprised you won’t be out of all your cash.
Create unique passwords and logins
Almost every website you interact with will require a username and password. It’s tempting to use the same one over and over, but doing so can increase the damage if your identity is stolen. Recent breaches have exposed billions of usernames and passwords. Using the same ones on multiple websites makes it that much easier for thieves to gain access to your information.
Following some basic precautions combined with a credit freeze can go a long way in protecting yourself against identify theft. If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft, you should file a complaint with the FTC, notify all of your financial institutions and implement a credit freeze.
For assistance with data breaches or any network security need you can reach out to any of our techs at SandStorm IT at 901-475-0275.