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Data breaches have become all too common in recent news, so much that it’s easy to dismiss “just another breach” as an inconvenience, instead of a major concern.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported more than 13 million victims of data breaches in the first three months of 2022 alone, meaning that our chances of being personally affected by a data breach are still high.
A data breach occurs when customer information that a business has collected (including email addresses, user names, passwords, credit card numbers, home addresses, and even Social Security Numbers) are illegally accessed by hackers. The hackers will typically sell the stolen information on the black market (also known as the dark web), where it can be purchased and used by scammers to commit fraud and/or identity theft.
Potential Fallout After a Data Breach
Believe it or not, data breaches can affect you long after the information is stolen. Here’s why.
- Thieves may hold onto the information before attempting fraud or selling it on the dark web. You can compare this to burglars waiting to sell “hot” merchandise until a few months after the theft, to minimize the chances of getting caught.
- According to a 2021 study by IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute, it may take companies an average of 287 days to identify and contain a data breach. Imagine leaving a paper folder with your personal information on a table at your local coffee shop for just one afternoon. How much more damage could a potential scammer do if they had access to your personal info for nine and a half months? Companies are legally required to report a data breach involving personally identifiable information as soon as possible, but they can’t report a breach until they know about it.
- Once your personal information is on the dark web, there’s nothing you can do to remove it. This means that months– even years –after a data breach, a fraudster may attempt to use that information. Your best option is to increase the security of your personal data to make it more difficult for anyone to use it fraudulently.
How To Minimize Risk of Identity Fraud
While you can’t personally prevent a breach when your data is under the control of third parties, you can minimize the potential impact of a leak. Once you know your data has been stolen, take these steps to prevent additional fallout, like identity theft.
- Don’t reuse passwords. If an email and password are stolen, the thief will try them on as many sites as possible to gain access to other accounts and commit further fraud. Once you know that a password has been compromised, change it on every platform, and be sure to use different (and reasonably complex) passwords for each account.
- Take advantage of free monitoring. Companies often offer free credit monitoring for a limited time after a breach. Definitely take advantage of it, but make sure you have monitoring in place after the free service expires.
Pro Tip: AAA Identity Champion offers credit monitoring and dark web monitoring year-round. If your information is found, you’ll receive an alert, allowing you to respond immediately and minimize the damage. AAA Members have monitoring included with their Membership at no additional cost – activation required.
- Keep an eye on your finances. Be sure to check your credit card and bank statements for any discrepancies or suspicious activity. If you notice unauthorized transactions, cancel your debit/credit cards and transfer money to a new bank account. Check out our recent blog for more warning signs that someone may have stolen your identity.
Data leaks have become all too common. Fortunately there are steps you can take to limit the potential damage. If the worst should happen and your identity is stolen, you’ll want a vetted professional to help you restore it. AAA Identity Champion offers hands-on support from agents who can file paperwork and make phone calls on your behalf. Select from plans that will offer you added peace of mind in our digital world where the threat of identity theft continues to loom large.