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What Do You Need to Know About Data Breaches?

Did you know that there have been over 200 reports of data breaches so far in 2014? Yet most of these did not make the headlines. The number of records affected in each of these breaches vary from a few hundred to the approximately 56 million reported by Home Depot.

What is a Data Breach?

A broad definition is the access of information or data by unauthorized persons. The breaches of most concern include personal information such as name, address, social security numbers, account numbers, email addresses, and passwords.

The breach type with the widest impact are the breaches caused by hacking or malware. In these breaches electronic access to a system is gained through software flaws or malicious software. Some other types of breaches include collection of debit and credit card information though skimming devices used on point of service terminals; portable devices containing sensitive information that are lost, stolen or discarded; and lost, stolen or discarded non-electronic records.

What Impact Can a Data Breach Have on Consumers?

Depending on the type of data breach, financial fraud and/or identity theft could occur. Financial fraud may result when information about existing accounts (bank, credit card, debit card) is compromised. Identity theft may result when compromised information is used to open new accounts.

What Should You Do?

Even though breach notification laws exist, notification can take some time. So be proactive. Review your account transactions and statements regularly which will allow you to spot unauthorized transactions quickly. Take advantage of your annual free credit reports by requesting a different one every 4 months. That can help you spot identity theft and correct any errors. Online, change your passwords regularly and use a unique password for each account.

If You Become a Victim of a Data Breach

If you become a victim, these articles will help you recover. Victim of a Data Breach? What Should You Do? from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and Immediate Steps to Repair Identity Theft from the Federal Trade Commission.

For More Information

Reminder for steps you can take if you think your credit or debit card data was hacked from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The FTC has many Identity Theft resources including information on what to do if you are a victim and how to protect your identity.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has fact sheets, alerts, videos, and quizzes about Identity Theft and Data Breaches.