5 On Your Side

5 On Your Side: Regain control after a data breach

Posted August 5, 2021 4:19 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2021 6:09 p.m. EDT

Your passwords and financial data may already be online and available for criminals to abuse. The information comes from seemingly endless data breaches.

Last year alone, more than 150 million people had their personal information exposed, much of if through the dark web, the internet network made up of hidden sites that you can’t find through conventional web browsers. Lots of scammers use it.

But there are ways to regain control if you notice purchases on a website or new credit cards, even loans, taken out in your name.

“I didn’t know what was happening. I hadn’t signed up for any new credit cards,” said Nicholas De Leon, a victim of identity theft.

Turns out, a data breach compromised his information.

“It was scary. It was stressful. And the worst part was that I was on the hook to clean up the mess,” said De Leon.

Often, companies let you know you’re a victim.

But if odd things start happening, take action yourself.

You can check online to see what information was compromised.

The website “Have I Been Pwned” will tell you if your email address, phone number or password were compromised.

“If your password was compromised, change it everywhere you used it,” said Bree Fowler with Consumer Reports.

It’s a good reminder not to reuse passwords.

If you’re struggling to remember them all, Consumer Reports recommends a password manager. They like 1Password, which creates and stores complex, unique passwords for each of your accounts.

Add multi- or two-factor authentication – which requires a second form of identification – as an extra layer of protection.

“Often, it’s a code sent to your phone. But we recommend using a form that’s more secure than that,” said Fowler.

Consumer Reports recommends the Google Authenticator app or a hardware security key, such as Yubikey.

And if your Social Security number or financial information was part of a data breach, Consumer Reports suggests you freeze your credit since it restricts access to your credit history.

One thing to keep in mind: Remember to unfreeze your credit before you apply for a car loan, mortgage, credit card or anything that pulls information from your credit history.

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