Retailer Target announced yesterday that the number of customers affected by hackers went from 40 million to 110 million. The stolen data includes credit card numbers, PINs, names, phone numbers and, in some cases, email addresses. Target is providing credit card monitoring for those potentially affected by the breach, but what can you do to protect yourself? Having your identity stolen or your credit score ruined can negatively affect you for years and in numerous ways.
Obtain copies of your credit report
Get copies of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. By law, everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually. Once you receive these reports, scour them thoroughly for errors. If errors exist, file a correction with the credit reporting agency to have it removed. The process to do this can be found on each of the company’s websites.
While you’re at it, request to have any accurate, negative marks removed from your credit report. State your case for your mistake, apologies and request an exception. There’s no guarantee your mistakes will be removed, but it can’t hurt to try.
The three agencies include:
You can, also, request to have all these reports sent to you from www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.
Cancel current credit and debit cards
Contact each institution with whom you have a credit or debit card to request that current cards be cancelled and new ones issued. Cut up and throw away your old cards once the new cards arrive.
While you have a customer service representative on the phone, ask them if they see anything of concern on your accounts and, if so, have it addressed immediately. Either online or with the customer service rep, set up security alerts that will email or text you if any future breaches occurs.
Also, review your account activity online (preferably for expediency) or when you receive your statement in the mail. If any incorrect transactions appear, dispute them.
Change user IDs and passwords
For all your online accounts including, but not limited to, email, bank, brokerage and credit card accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snap Chat, retail stores, phone, etc., change your user ID and password. You may even want to change your email address and take other similar measures.
Shred sensitive documents
After you’ve thoroughly reviewed your credit reports and statements, shred them. These documents contain a lot of sensitive information that makes it easy to steal an identity. In many cases, hackers are cross referencing data to target individuals. These documents make the cross referencing easy.
Ultimately, practice caution. Don’t leave your wallet, purse or credit/debit cards laying around. Don’t let business take your credit or debit cards out of your site. Don’t give your credit or debit card numbers to any questionable person or business, specifically sketchy online business. Continually monitor your accounts and reports and file corrections as soon as any errors appear.
By practicing these steps, you can reduce your risk of identity theft. Hackers are smart and have a lot to gain from stealing your information, so they will continue to try to overcome any protective measures you implement. Stay aware.