Data breaches have become increasingly common, even at highly respected organizations like credit bureaus and virus protection companies. And if your personal data is compromised, you are suddenly at higher risk for identity theft and financial fraud, with potential consequences ranging from unauthorized transactions to a compromised credit score and financial instability.
With the increasing frequency of data breaches and cyberattacks, it’s crucial to know how to respond effectively if your financial information is exposed. Here’s a comprehensive guide on the steps to take if your financial information is exposed.
Stay Calm and Act Quickly
If you discover that your financial information has been exposed, that can be upsetting and stressful. But you’ll accomplish more if you can remain calm and act immediately, rather than being sidetracked by your emotional response. The faster you respond, the better chance you’ll have of minimizing potential damage.
Identify the source of the data breach and gather as much information as you can about what specific information has been exposed. That might include credit card numbers, bank account details, Social Security number, and other information. If you understand the extent of the breach, you can better assess your financial risk.
Contact Financial Institutions
Get in touch with your bank, credit card companies, and other relevant financial institutions about the breach. They can take steps to monitor your account for suspicious activities. They might also issue new account numbers or cards if necessary. Consider turning on notifications for your financial institution’s app, so you can be quickly notified of any charges that might be suspicious.
To secure your accounts moving forward, you’ll need to immediately change the passwords for your online banking, credit card accounts, and any other accounts that contain sensitive financial information. Use strong, unique passwords; phrases are often better than words. You might consider using a password manager to keep track of them.
Monitor Your Accounts
Regularly monitor your financial accounts for any unusual or unauthorized transactions. Most banks and credit card companies provide tools to set up alerts for any suspicious activities.
Place Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes
Consider placing a fraud alert with the credit bureaus on your credit report to alert potential lenders to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. You can also use a credit freeze, which restricts access to your credit report, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
Notify Law Enforcement
File a report with your local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if your personal information has been compromised. These reports can help law enforcement investigate the breach and protect your rights. In some cases, you may need a copy of the police report and FTC filing to have a fraudulent charge or account removed.
Update Security Software
Make sure your computer, tablet, smartphone, and other devices have up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software installed. Regularly update your operating systems and applications to make sure you have the latest security patches.
Keep detailed records of all communications, actions taken, and steps you’ve followed to address the breach. This documentation can be helpful if you need to prove that you’ve taken appropriate measures to protect yourself.
Monitor Your Credit Reports
Review your current credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. Look for any unfamiliar accounts or inquiries and dispute any inaccuracies you find. After a data breach, fraudsters may buy or sell your personal information for months or years to come—so it’s important to regularly monitor your credit for unauthorized changes.
ScoreSense makes it easy to stay updated on your credit information by tracking all three of your credit reports and scores and staying informed about any potential errors. Members can also contact our credit specialists who can help walk them through the dispute process with the bureaus. If you’re not a member, try a 7-day trial now.