There is an old proverb that says "Crime never sleeps." Last week it was reported that Equifax had reached a settlement with the federal government regarding their data breach and the subsequent mishandling of the necessary reporting from 2017. Now we learn that Capital One, one of the largest banks in the world, was hacked. More than 100 million people in the United States and Canada were affected.
Today is as good a day as any to take actions to protect yourself and your identity. It is not enough to hope you will not be a victim or to assume it will happen to someone else. You need to take action.
1. Preventive Actions
It may be obvious, but one of the most important actions you can take is to be careful with your personal data!
- Don't give out your personal information to people you don't know. This is especially true over the phone or on your computer.
- Be extra careful with email. Do not click on links or attachments sent by people or organizations you do not know.
- Don't just throw away; shred documents containing any personal information.
- Create strong online passwords. Avoid using the same one in multiple locations.
- Use two-factor authentication wherever possible. Yes, it is inconvenient, but not nearly as inconvenient as having your identity stolen.
- Use a password manager to store your passwords. Do not write passwords down anywhere, and especially never with the name of the website on the same page, i.e. don't keep a written list of passwords even in a safe place.
- Don't use public WiFi to access sensitive data.
- Be careful what you share on social media. Posting that you are going out to celebrate your birthday tells the world the day you were born. Stating it is your 30th birthday tells the world your entire date of birth.
2. Credit Freeze
The single most important step to protecting your identity is to freeze your credit. Without the ability to verify your credit thieves are unable to obtain new credit cards, open new accounts, access your home's equity, rent an apartment, etc. Essentially, you are cutting off their access to new money. Thanks to a federal law passed last September, you can now freeze your credit for free at all three of the big credit bureaus. Click here to go directly to the appropriate site Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
3. Communication with Your Banks
Sign up for text alerts on all your debit and credit cards. In this way you are notified whenever someone uses one of your cards. If you get an alert when you haven't used your card call your bank immediately.
Set up a separate email address to only be used by your bank and credit cards. Do not give this address out to anyone else. You do not want to receive emails from your bank or credit card companies in your general mailbox. If a hacker is able to get into your email, and this is more common than you think, he will look for correspondence from financial institutions. Any email from your financial institution, even a flyer asking you to open a new account, will give them one more piece to the puzzle necessary to access your money.