It seems like every few months, another major security breach is in the news. It can be easy to ignore another warning headline, especially when it doesn’t affect you. But what happens when the nightmare of identity theft is yours?
This is how to pick up the pieces after an identity theft or security breach and what to do to make sure it never happens again!
1. Change the Passwords of Your Online Accounts
If a security breach involves login information for websites that you visit, change your passwords immediately. This is especially important if you use the same password for several online accounts. Moving forward, create strong passwords that can’t be easily guessed and use different passwords for each account. You can even use free password generators to help you choose wisely.
2. Freeze Your Credit Cards and Other Accounts
If someone has data that will allow them to fraudulently open credit cards and other accounts in your name, you should consider placing a freeze on your credit reports. You’ll need to do this individually through each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and Trans Union — and will likely be charged a fee of about $5 to $10, depending on the agency and state. When you freeze your credit report, no one can access it, so you’ll need to lift the freeze, temporarily or permanently, if you need to have someone run your report. Some examples of this are if you apply for a mortgage, rental, car loan, or credit card.
3. Put an Alert on Your Credit Reports
Alerts require companies to take additional steps to verify your identity before they extend credit to you or someone pretending to be you. A credit alert is free and lasts 90 days, but you can renew it. To place an alert on your report, you only need to contact one of the credit reporting agencies and request an Initial Fraud Alert. That agency must then notify the other two.
4. Check and Monitor Your Credit Reports
Check your credit reports. You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to view your credit reports from all three reports for free. Make sure there’s nothing unusual on them. If you see activity that isn’t from you, visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do next.
5. Review and Watch Your Bank and Credit Card Statements
Keep an eye on these accounts, not just immediately after the breach, but over the weeks and months that follow. If you see suspicious activity, contact your bank or credit card company’s fraud department. They will have protocols in place for you to dispute charges and file a fraud report. They will replace your cards and account numbers as necessary.
6. File Your Taxes Early If You Can
If someone fraudulently files taxes with your social security number, it could delay your refund. To help prevent someone else claiming your refund, file early so that you can beat the bad guys to the punch.
Security breaches can be a nightmare to recover from and can suck away hours and hours of your valuable time. At Charter College, we know you have more important things to do! That’s why we regularly offer tips on our Student Accounts Facebook Page on how to manage your money and avoid financial pitfalls that could set you back.