Data breaches are becoming a bigger threat as more and more personal data is shared and stored digitally. But not only is the amount of personal information stored in databases increasing, so too is the number of breaches we are experiencing. At the beginning of the week, the popular question-and-answer website, Quora, was breached, exposing the email addresses, passwords and social media data of an estimated 100 million users. And the week before that, Marriott experienced an even larger breach in which the names, addresses, and even passport numbers of over 320 million guests were compromised. If you happen to live in the US, your information is especially vulnerable. The country had the most data breaches by a longshot when compared to other country across the world between 2013 and 2017.
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With that in mind, here are a few ways to protect your personal information and keep tabs on it over the coming year.
Keep an eye on your credit
Looking over your credit report on a regular basis is a good habit to adopt in general, but it is especially important if you believe your information may have been stored in databases belonging to companies that recently experienced a breach. You can download one free copy of your credit report 12 months from each of the credit reporting agencies and many popular credit card companies also offer a free credit report to their customers that can be checked at any time. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies in data as well as any new accounts that look unfamiliar to you. Make sure to report the information to the appropriate credit agency as soon as possible.
Enable fraud alerts
Many banks and credit card companies offer the option to enable alerts through their mobile apps or email that will alert customers of potentially fraudulent activity involving their accounts. This can be a great first line of defense that will warn you when new accounts are being opened in your name and about recent transactions made on your account that look suspicious. It’s possible your bank will reach out to notify you of suspicious activity, but customers should also be proactive about their accounts and call the bank if they notices any questionable activity.
Change your passwords
Nobody enjoys remembering a new password every few months, but changing it could make a big difference when it comes to keeping your accounts secure. Choosing passwords that are complex, including a number, symbol, and no recognizable words or names makes it more difficult for hackers to access your account. If you have accounts with any companies that experienced data breaches make sure to change your password immediately.
Other helpful tips to protect your information include shredding documents and cards that contain account numbers, social security numbers, and any other information you wouldn’t want shared with others. As well as, backing up your files on a password protected, secure, personal hard drive which could also save you the headache of recovering information that may have been deleted during a data breach.