You've received the ominous message that your account has been compromised. Now what?
Message: We have detected unusual activity on your account. Did you authorize this transaction?
At first you think the text from your credit card company is a mistake; then reality sets in. You may have been hacked. Your mind reels as you wonder what information the thieves were able to access and if your identity has been stolen. Sadly, this scenario is all too common. The Federal Trade Commission reports that 11.7 million people find themselves as victims of identity theft every year.
Cyberattacks target individuals and huge corporations alike. While reputable companies take cyber threats seriously and institute multiple layers of protection, hackers relentlessly pursue ways around obstacles between them and your information. Should you get hacked, take action immediately.
Contact your financial institutions. Alert them and order new credit and debit cards. Inform the three major credit bureaus about the breach, and ask for credit monitoring, fraud alerts, as well as copies of your credit reports.
Equifax.com // 800.685.1111
Transunion.com // 800.916.8800
Experian.com // 888.397.3742
Report identity theft, by phone and in writing, to local, state and federal law enforcement. Keep records of all relevant correspondence. Contact the Federal Trade Commission as well for next steps.
Identitytheft.com // 877.438.4338
Reset passwords. Use a complex and unique mix of numbers, cases and symbols for every website you use. Experts blame weak or stolen user names and passwords for 76% of data breaches. Consider using password manager software if needed. If the website offers two-step authentication, use it.
Routinely check for fraudulent activity. Watch your monthly statements, emails and regular mail and report unauthorized or suspicious activity immediately.
Notify your contact list to delete strange emails that appear to be from you.
Secure your information by keeping software up to date and installing an antivirus product. Be thoughtful about information shared online or via telephone. Shred sensitive material or store securely in a digital or physical vault.
Stay alert. Vigilance and careful behavior online (e.g., using secure sites denoted by https in the URL) offer a strong line of defense against hacking.