The numbers are staggering: So far this year more than 6 billion records have been stolen through data breaches, already surpassing the number for all of 2016.
As of June 30, there were 2,227 data breaches. In 2015, a group of Russian hackers stole 1.2 billion passwords.
But all it really takes is one data breach that steals your personal information to make your life miserable. That’s why the Better Business Bureau continues to warn consumers about monitoring their accounts and their credit ratings.
Still, if in spite of your best efforts you become victimized by hackers, there are measures you can take to minimize the damage.
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Scammers scam the aftermath
Crooks have even found a way to fool consumers who are trying to recover from the effects of a data breach. Companies often set up separate websites for their customers with information specific to a hacking incident, right after the event has been identified.
The problem is that scammers take advantage of the confusion and the desperation that comes in the aftermath of a data breach. They set up their own fake (or “spoof”) websites and send phishing emails out. Even more personal information can be stolen as frightened consumers think they are following proper procedures.
BBB advises consumers to always go directly to the business’ website, then follow links from there to address the data breach incident. Don’t fall for links sent in emails that may look legitimate but may in fact be from scammers.
Steps to take
When you suspect that your personal information has been compromised by a data breach, here are some things to do:
▪ Act quickly. If there’s a chance your Social Security number has been acquired by a thief, you may have a rough road ahead. The sooner you take action, the better.
▪ Consider freezing your credit reports. It will stop thieves from creating new fraudulent accounts in your name. Your existing credit cards and other accounts will not be impacted.
▪ Definitely place a fraud alert on your credit reports. This provides an extra layer of protection.
▪ Strong passwords, regularly changed, are a must for account protection. You can do a search for how to create strong passwords, or you can go to passwordsgenerator.net, where they can be created for you.
▪ Do a search for “IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft” for information related to data breaches and your federal taxes.
▪ Use the free credit monitoring services offered by the company to their breach victims. This will inform you of new accounts or inquiries that scammers attempt with your Social Security number.
▪ Regularly check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com and
watch for signs of fraud.
This is the only FTC-authorized free credit report site. Some sites trick you into paying for services.
▪ Visit the FTC’s identity theft resources site for step-by-step guidance on repairing damage from identity theft.
Recovery from a data breach takes work. Ignoring the incident can cost you dearly.