Protecting Yourself Against Data Breaches

As we continue to learn more about data breaches, the trend seems to be that they get larger in scale each time they happen.  Even if your private information hasn't been compromised, you should know what to do if it is.

Only you can decide what kind of monitoring or alert system is best for you.  Here are a few of the options available.

1. Monitor Your Accounts.  Continue to keep a close eye on your account activity.  You are not liable for fraudulent charges made to your credit card accounts, but it is important that you notify the credit card servicer in a timely manner.  Check with your servicers for their requirements as each on may be slightly different.  The sooner fraud is caught, the sooner it can be stopped and new cards can be issued.

2. Credit Monitoring.  Signing up for a credit monitoring service will inform you if a new credit account is opened using your information.  It will not stop the account from being opened, but you can begin to dispute the account information with the credit bureaus immediately.

3.  Fraud Alerts.  A fraud alert makes your credit information available to creditors as long as they take certain steps to verify your identity.  For example, if you were to set up fraud alerts, the creditor would be required to call you to verify you are, in fact, the person attempting to open the requested credit account.  Unless you are already a victim of identity theft, the fraud alerts are only good for 90 days at a time.  You can continuously add fraud alerts every 90 days, and you only need to contact one credit bureau.  That credit bureau will automatically forward the alert information to the other two.

4. Credit Freeze.  A credit freeze is exactly what is sounds like.  It will restrict the access to your credit report which makes it much more difficult for identity thieves to open new credit accounts with your information.  A credit freeze will stop new accounts from being opened, but that also creates a barrier for you should you need to apply for a new loan or credit card.  The freeze can be temporarily lifted, but that process can take up to 24 hours.

No matter how you choose to proceed after a data breach, doing something is better than doing nothing.  Do your research and make the best decision you can for you and your family members.