With massive security breaches becoming all too common, consumers are urged to take steps to protect themselves.
The recent Capital One data breach is believed to have compromised the personal information of about 100 million consumers in the United States and 6 million consumers in Canada. It is said to be one of the top 10 largest data breaches ever.
The bank announced that in addition to the credit card application data, portions of credit card customer data were also obtained, including credit scores, limits, balances, payment history, transaction data and contact information. Stolen data also included 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers.
Digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson with NordVPN offers consumers advice.
The first important step is to log into your online account and change the password immediately. Go through the privacy settings and check if you can make your account more secure. Invoke all recommended security settings.
Sign up for email or text alerts about your monetary transactions.
The best way to protect yourself is to freeze your credit. This makes it very difficult to open new accounts in your name, even if someone is using your stolen financial information. It is important to note that credit freeze doesn’t influence your score.
With credit freeze invoked, most creditors will decline to open a new account as they will not be able to check your credit history.
If freezing your credit is not an option for you, contact one of the credit bureaus and invoke a fraud alert. Fraud alerts flag creditors and they verify your identity before issuing new credit in your name. Such alerts usually last for a year but can be renewed.
Check for credit inquiries, balances and new accounts that you haven’t opened or applied for.
Regularly check your credit card statements online, even if you think that your data hasn’t been affected by the breach. If you see any strange activities on your balance, try to recall whether you authorized the charge. If you can’t recall it, inform your bank and the merchant immediately.
Make sure to keep all your documentation, such as order confirmation numbers or receipts.
Since hackers may have detailed information on more than 100 million individuals, there might be a spike in more personalized phishing scams. Such scams are usually very effective as criminals use a piece of real information, for example, your name and address.
Personalized phishing messages are designed to look as if they are coming from a legitimate bank or other familiar organization. Be vigilant and contact the organization before clicking on any links, filling in forms or transferring funds.
And, if you notice something unusual, report the incident to the authorities. Raising the alarm can help not only you, but others affected by the breach as well.