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Protect yourself after a data breach

Your information was exposed in a data breach — now what?

Learning your private information was exposed in a data breach brings an uneasy, vulnerable feeling. While it may not mean your identity was stolen, you should still take steps to protect yourself.

Read on for tips to regain control of your accounts and safeguard your personal information.

What is a data breach?

A data breach is a security violation. It means protected or confidential information was copied, transmitted, or used without authorization. Names and Social Security numbers may be compromised. High priorities for hackers include passwords and addresses. So are bank account, driver’s license, and credit card numbers.

Breached businesses and organizations suffer monetary damage — and loss of customer trust.

Data breaches happen every year

Thousands of data breaches happen every year, large and small. The 2017 Equifax breach exposed the information of 147 million Americans. In 2020, The Washington State Auditor’s Office was breached. More than 1.5 million Washingtonians were affected. In 2022, a student loan breach struck Nelnet Servicing. More than 2.5 million people's information was stolen.

10 things to do if you’ve been part of a data breach

  1. Use a trusted site to confirm the breach.
  2. Determine exactly what information was breached. The breached organization is required to provide these specifics.
  3. Find out what the breached company is doing to support you. Take advantage of services offered. You’ll often find this communicated on their website.
  4. Report the theft at identitytheft.gov. You’ll get a personal recovery plan and resources. Set up an account to use progress trackers, pre-filled forms, and letters.
  5. Request and review your credit reports from each of the three major bureaus. You can do this for free once a year. Be sure to request them at annualcreditreport.com. Reach out to TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian to clear suspicious information. Pro tip: Ask that the reports only show the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  6. Review your financial accounts for suspicious activity. Look for unknown charges in your Online Banking. Don’t forget payment options like Venmo, Apple Pay, Zelle, and PayPal.
  7. Consider freezing or locking your credit. These actions seal your credit reports, stopping new lines of credit from opening. Freezing your credit won’t affect your credit score. Credit monitoring services can still access your information and send you alerts. Locking credit is an optional product a credit bureau may offer, sometimes for a fee.
  8. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Fraud alerts force a business to take extra steps to verify identity before issuing new credit. When you file a fraud alert at one of the three nationwide credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian — the credit bureau you contact must pass the request on to the other two bureaus.
  9. Change any exposed passwords. Strengthen your passwords by making them at least 12 characters. Use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  10. Enhance security on your accounts. Numerica monitors debit and credit card transactions 24/7 with fraud text alerts. Members can also set up real-time alerts to be notified about account balances, sign-ins, and more. Adding multifactor authentication is another smart step.

Proactivity: make the hacker’s job harder

There’s no foolproof way to prevent your information from becoming part of a breach. But there are things you can do to proactively protect your information.

Monitor your financial accounts — online and paper

People who track financial accounts online lose significantly less per fraud incident. If you prefer monitoring paper statements, be sure to shred them when you’re done.

Make your ID questions tough to answer

Add enhanced identification questions to your Numerica accounts for account verification purposes. Use questions and answers a fraudster wouldn’t learn from a data breach.

Pro tip: Make sure your answers can’t be figured out by a hacker scrolling your social media feeds. (Which should be set to private anyway, right?) To change your ID questions, visit your Numerica branch or call 800.433.1837.

Avoid sharing info on social media profiles and quizzlets

Quizzes on Facebook and other social media channels may seem harmless. But some are designed to get helpful information — where you met your spouse or what type of car you first drove. Keep birthday and anniversary information off your profile as well. From password combinations to impersonation, all of these items can be useful to fraudsters.

Delete accounts you aren’t using

How many apps and websites do you rarely — if ever — log in to? Deactivate accounts you don’t use.

Parents, check on your kid’s information

A child’s Social Security number spends years in dormancy, making kids easy targets. Parents and guardians should contact major credit bureaus on behalf of their child. Check for files relating to the child’s name and Social Security number. Watch for warning signs your child’s information has been compromised. They shouldn’t get bills, pre-approved credit offers, or calls from collection agencies.

Numerica: your partner in the fight against fraud

Helping you live well financially means Numerica is with you every step of the way. We’re here to help when it comes to battling fraud and keeping your accounts secure. Visit Numerica’s library of fraud and security resources for more articles to help keep you safe. You can also drop in to your favorite branch, or call us at 800.433.1837.

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March 2, 2024