With the amount of data that companies collect and store increasing daily, you may wonder if there will ever be a way to remain protected. Major breaches such as Equifax and Target leaked over two hundred and twenty-six million customers’ information. Staying vigilant and proactive has never been more important.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting your data, but developing a set of habits and best practices can help.
- Once a year, all three major credit bureaus offer a no cost credit report. Keeping an eye on your report will alert you of suspicious activity.
- You can freeze your credit which can easily be unfrozen with a simple PIN number or click of a button. Freezing your credit will require you to contact the major bureaus when looking to open new lines of credit. However, the process of unfreezing is quick and easy.
- Enable fraud monitoring features with your banks and credit cards. While monitoring is a great way to passively protect yourself, it is best to verify all transactions at least on a monthly basis. It is easy to login to your account from your desktop or mobile on a weekly basis, which provides added protection to catch unauthorized transactions as they occur so you can immediately protect yourself from additional charges.
- Use unique and strong passwords that are not used on multiple sites. Using simple passwords on all of your sites is easy to remember but puts you at risk of a brute force attack – an attack where a program guesses passwords over and over. Reusing your passwords from site to site puts you at risk as well. When a site is compromised, the information typically ends up posted to the web. There are both people and programs that will take this information and attempt to login to other sites. Remember, most data breaches are discovered months after the original attack. If you need to, keep a password sheet or a password book in a safe place just in case you forget your login information.
- Be weary of all unsolicited contact from financial institutions. Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated. Always double check the website’s address that you are sent to. Malicious sites will typically append a reputable institution’s name prior to the actual domain name (i.e. bankofamerica.scamsite.com). Ask yourself, “Did I initiate this contact? Does it follow the normal communications of this business?” The same goes with phone contact. If anything seems out of place, don’t hesitate to call the phone number listed on their website.
- Purchase online from reputable companies. If unsure, use Paypal or a one-time use credit card. While companies offer online fraud protection, it is best to remain wary of online purchases. You not only lose time and money but also some sites can also sell your information. If the site’s security is poor, it can be breached and leak your information.
- Take advantage of any monitoring services that are offered if a company has been breached. These services are usually offered to you for free.
Staying on top of your digital identity has become more and more important. If you follow these steps, you will have a basic framework to stay informed of changes. There is no way to fully protect yourself from a data breach but you can make it harder for them to access your information.