You’ve probably received an email before alerting you that your data has been leaked in a data breach. A data breach is an intentional security incident that exposes sensitive, confidential data to unauthorized third parties. This exposed information can range from banking details, personal identification, and protected health information to any other private intellectual property. 

Data breaches can happen for various reasons, but most commonly, they result from cyber-attacks, system and human errors, or physical attacks. 

  • Cyber-attack: When unauthorized parties seek out the weaknesses in a security system with the intention of stealing data and either selling or using it to their own advantage. A recent example occurred at MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, where a cyber-attack shut down its IT systems. As a result, guests were unable to charge products to their rooms, make room reservations, or use their digital room keys. This cost the resort as much as $8.4 million each day its systems were down during the attack.
  • System and human errors: Can lead to data breaches when criminals take advantage of poorly designed software. 
  • Physical attacks: When data is stolen because a physical item with that data is lost or taken. A good example of this would be the loss of a hard drive or an important document. 

Typically, when companies discover a data breach, they will inform their customers and provide instructions on how to proceed. However, it is still important for you to take additional steps to help safeguard your information from further harm. 

Here are four steps you should take if your private information is compromised by a data breach. 

Change Your Passwords

Following a data breach, change your password to something strong, hard to guess, and different from your previous password. Make sure to never use the same password for all of your accounts because if your data does appear in a leak, then whoever accesses it could gain access to multiple accounts. To create a strong password, use a combination of numbers, letters, and hard-to-guess words and symbols. If you find yourself creating new passwords often, it may be beneficial to use a random password generator like LastPass. It’s an online tool that generates unique passwords which can be customized to fit minimum and maximum length, upper and lower case, special characters, and more.

Keep an Eye on Your Bank Accounts 

There’s a possibility your credit card or important personal information was stolen during a data breach. By monitoring your bank accounts and credit cards, you can get ahead of any possible fraud or identity theft. If your private information has been breached, you should call your bank to inform them. Typically, your bank can put a memo or hold on your account, depending on severity of the fraud attempts, to help monitor any suspicious activity. To be extra safe, consider canceling your credit cards and ordering new ones. 

Monitor Your Credit Report

You should also look at your credit report to see if any new lines of credit are opened. If so and you didn’t authorize it, personal information — along with your social security number — may have been stolen. In this case, it may be a good idea to freeze your credit. A credit freeze blocks access to your credit reports, protecting against attempts to access your credit reports and open fraudulent accounts. If your credit is frozen, potential creditors cannot see the data required to approve applications, which can minimize fraudulent accounts opened on your behalf. When freezing your credit, you must contact all three of the credit bureaus separately. 

Services like LifeLock can also scan for the use of your personal information and pinpoint possible identity threats. Often, if a large company experiences a data breach and your personal information is affected, it will offer a monitoring service to its customers free of charge, but this isn’t guaranteed.  

Initiate a Fraud Alert

If you are worried your information has been stolen, then you should issue a fraud alert with IdentityTheft.Gov. This is a government website that can help you assess the severity of the information that has been stolen and will give you options for what to do next. The information stolen can result in identity theft or fraud, so take the time to review your best options.

Whether you have experience with threats of a data breach or know someone who has, understanding your options will help protect you from becoming a victim. To learn more, visit the Fraud Prevention page at

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