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Protect Yourself After a Data Breach

The records of at least 106 million people were exposed in the recent Capital One data breach. What can you do?


Data breaches happen all the time. Most recently, news reports accuse Capital One of allowing a hacker to access the personal information of at least 106 million individual consumers.

Somewhere north of 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers were exposed, according to Capital One.

If (and, more likely, when) your personal information falls into the hands of the wrong folks, you could find yourself the victim of identity theft. This means someone could charge your credit cards, drain your bank account, or even open up new accounts in your name without you knowing about it.

Here are a few concrete steps you can take if you think your data may have been compromised in a breach:

1. Watch Out For Scammers

Unfortunately there are plenty of bottom-feeders out there who prey on people who have been victimized. Capital One has said they will be contacting individuals this week through the mail to notify them if their information has been compromised. Watch out for scammers posing as Capital One or the government seeking to obtain even more of your sensitive information over the phone or online.

2. Monitor Your Accounts

I tell all of my friends and family that at least once a week they should review their credit card and bank statements and look for any suspicious activity.

If an identity thief charges one or your cards or transfers funds from a bank account, you only have a limited amount of time to dispute it. Make sure to be diligent about checking your transactions for signs of fraud.

3. Check Your Credit Reports

Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report each year from the three major credit bureaus: EquifaxExperian and TransUnion. (Recall that Equifax is still dealing with its own data breach.)

www.annualcreditreport.com is the only website created at the behest of the federal government—watch out for imposters who want to charge you for your reports.

Once you receive a copy of your reports, review them for errors or incorrect information, such as inquiries for new accounts (or even accounts you didn’t open).

4. What If You’re A Victim Of Identity Theft?

If you find evidence of fraud in reviewing your accounts and credit reports, there a few things you should do immediately:

  • Create a plan using the FTC’s guide. They will help you create an Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • You should place a fraud alert with each of the three big credit reporting agencies at the following links:
  • File a police report with your local police department, and make sure you get a copy of the police report.
  • Contact your credit card companies and banks to alert them of the fraud.

5. Contact Us

We have lots of experience dealing with the fallout from data breaches and identity theft. If you believe you are the victim of identity theft please contact us and we can help you enforce your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Acta

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