Finding out that someone has hacked into one of your online accounts and may have accessed personal information is both frustrating and frightening. When you get a notification that there has been a data breach or “security incident,” your first panicked thought is always, “What should I do NOW?” All you want is to protect the integrity of all of your accounts and to mitigate any damage—and you want to do it fast.
If, like most people, you’re a bit unsure about where to start, Mozilla1 has a list of immediate steps that you should take if you find out you’ve been a victim of a data breach.
- Change your password. Unfortunately, the hacker may have already done this for you, so if you’re unable to access your account because your password no longer works, contact the website directly to ask how you can recover or shut down the account. If you can access the account, change the password immediately.
- Change all your passwords. It’s a good idea to change your passwords periodically anyway, but especially if another account has been compromised. Hackers may attempt to use the password they exposed to gain access to other accounts, so remember to always make each password unique. Never use the same password twice—or even a similar version of the same password. For more valuable information on how to create strong passwords, read our online security article.
- Watch your financial information. Some breaches only expose emails and passwords, but others expose sensitive financial information including bank accounts and credit card numbers. Review your bank and credit card statements to ensure that no charges or changes have been made. If you see something that doesn’t add up, immediately contact your bank to report the fraudulent activity. It’s a good idea to closely monitor your banking information for a while after a security incident.
- Be aware of identity theft. Check your credit report to ensure that no loans or credit cards have been opened in your name. It’s a myth that checking your own credit report affects your credit score, so don’t be afraid to make sure all is well. You may even consider hiring a credit monitoring company to keep an eye on your credit report. They will alert you to any changes in your score.
Remember, data breaches are virtually impossible to prevent, but you can protect yourself as much as possible by being alert and by creating strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts that are difficult to hack.
For more information on what to do after a data breach, visit Tom’s Guide.
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