(Updated 10/19/2020) With an increasing number of cybersecurity incidents making headlines, you or someone you know someone may have been personally affected. Regardless of the security efforts consumers put in place, you have little control over how others store and guard sensitive information. In this post, we’ve decided to share a couple of personal experiences.
So with that in mind, what is it like to have your personal information compromised? It’s confusing and daunting. Not only are you worried about how the stolen information might be used against you, you suddenly have the responsibility of cleaning up a mess caused by someone else.
A Personal Tale of Two Breaches
In an especially stressful instance, one of my coworkers learned of an issue with his bank account while he was in the office. We witnessed the range of emotions that he went through: shock, bewilderment, anger and frustration. To make matters worse, his bank’s technical service line went down and he was unable to prove his identity to gain access to his accounts. He had to sit tight and hope that his accounts weren’t being drained for a full day until he was able to verify his identity.
Unable to even buy lunch, he began the process of notifying the credit bureau to look out for suspicious activity. He wasn’t sure how he'd been breached and worried that his social security number and other personal identifying information may also have been stolen. He set about changing each password while lamenting about how much of a pain it would be to set up new monthly payments. He's still not sure what happened and continues to look through his bank statements with a fine-toothed comb.
The second story is my own. My credit card was breached in the infamous Home Depot attack. My experience was a bit less taxing than my colleague’s. My bank notified me of the breach before I saw anything amiss and promptly sent me a new card to replace the one that was compromised. Other than having to provide the new card information to a few services I pay for monthly, I didn’t have too many post-breach chores to complete.
I wasn’t affected quite as deeply as my coworker, but I still worry about how long my card information was in the wrong hands—and if any other information was lost along with it.
What should you do if your personal information is stolen?
A recent survey found that 76% of those affected by a data breach felt serious stress afterwards (kudos to the other 24% for keeping their cool). Surprisingly, less than half took any steps to protect themselves from future identity theft. After dealing with so many issues and notifications related to the breach of information, many people just want to put the incident behind them. And who could blame them? But it's more important than ever to be vigilant and remain alert, even if you have been issued a new card.
Even though the data breach may have been the fault of the company who lost your information, there are still steps you need to take to protect yourself.
- Find out what type of information was compromised. There are many different kinds of data breaches. Before you know what kind of damage you’re vulnerable to, you need to know if the information was credit card info, account numbers, medical information, email addresses, social security numbers, or anything else that may put you at risk.
- Check your bank and credit card statements. If the information stolen was financial, check your account statements to make sure no purchases or other activity is there that shouldn’t be.
- Contact your bank and credit card providers. Whether there is any activity on your accounts or not, you should contact your bank about the breach. This may involve canceling credit cards or closing accounts, depending on what information was stolen.
- Change passwords. If any of your emails, passwords, or other account information was stolen, change your passwords immediately. In the future, it’s good practice to change these frequently.
- Use credit monitoring services. To get notified or prevent future use of your personal information, look into credit monitoring services. They may be able to stop or at least notify you when accounts are created in your name or when there is suspicious activity.
Where can you look for help after a data breach?
When large companies are the victim of a data breach, many of them offer support to their customers whose data they lost. In fact, most consumers expect some kind of assistance after their information has been stolen. Home Depot has offered identity repair services to affected American and Canadian customers, along with other credit services. These services are helpful, as is a sincere apology if blame can be placed. However, according to recent research from Identity Theft Resource Center, 51% of identity theft victims don’t resolve their issues even after a year’s time.
As I can attest, being the victim of a data breach is a stressful experience. The feelings of violation and the aggravation of dealing with the aftermath are not something we’d wish on anyone (except, of course, for the hackers who responsible).
Have you been the victim of a recent attack? Share your experience with us in the comments below.