What to Do After a Data Breach: The Steps Explained – SFGate

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The prospect of having your data or identity stolen online is a very scary one. Most of us just choose to ignore the chance that this could happen to us until there’s a real threat to our security. 

Unfortunately, though, the potential for a data breach of some kind is very real. We’re going to talk about what you should do if you experience a data breach, hopefully giving you some idea of how to move forward in the most effective way. 

Let’s get started.

How to Know if a Data Breach has Occurred

One of the difficult things about a modern data breach is that it’s not always evident that it’s happened to you right away. 

If someone steals your social security number and uses it to open a line of credit, you might not notice that something was wrong only after you’re contacted by collections. Information thieves can take your information and wreak havoc on your financial situation without you having any idea.

This is because there’s a lot that criminals can do with your information before anything gets back to you. For example, someone might take your financial information to open a utility bill in your name for the place they’re staying in. That bill won’t appear to you until well after it’s past-due and it’s likely that the individual will have set up the account to contact them with any alerts. 

So, you only find out when your credit score is updated and you have an unknown bill in collections. 

When you do get breached, the first thing to do is figure out which information exactly was taken. 

1. Find Out What Was Stolen

If you find out that there was a bill taken out in your name or a line of credit opened with your information, contact the company or institution from which the bills are coming. Call the energy company or the financial institution that issued the loan to find out precisely which information was needed to open the account. 

You can reckon with those companies later to figure out what can be done about the bills, but the first thing to do is get a handle on the situation and how bad it may be. Typically, someone will have your bank account information or your social security number. 

There could also be dates of birth, various names, addresses, email addresses, various credit card numbers, and more. You can take a look at your spam folder and unknown emails to see if you’re getting any communication for things that you didn’t initially engage in. 

2. See If You’re Protected

Once you’ve seen what was actually stolen and assess the damage that you’re experiencing, contact the various institutions that have been breached and see if you’re covered for fraud or other liability. 

Most credit cards will have options for you to continue with in the case that your information has been stolen and used to make purchases. These should take care of most or all of the damage that you’ve experienced. 

If the company can’t immediately refund you or take care of the charges, you can learn more here about legal action to take. We’ll discuss taking action a little more as well. 

3. Contact Credit Bureaus

A serious attack on your financial identity will have a significant impact on your credit score. Negative credit marks can stay on your credit for more than 6 years and prevent you from getting loans, credit cards, and more. 

Look at your credit report and see all of the instances of charges or fees that you didn’t partake in. You should then contact the major credit bureaus and let them know that the information is incorrect. 

They will require different forms of verification, likely from the institutions in which you were breached. That is unless those institutions have already contacted the credit bureaus. This process can be painstaking and time-consuming, but it’s absolutely worth it to save your credit. 

4. Consult with a Legal Team

Your next move should be to talk with lawyers and see what kind of reconciliation is possible. 

It might be difficult for you on your own to find out who has hacked you or the full extent of what they’ve done with your personal information. That’s where lawyers can be extremely helpful. 

They’ll have access to resources and different professionals who can give a comprehensive search on your information to find out what exactly has gone wrong. 

Additionally, they’ll know how to respond to different companies if they fail to give you the compensation you need. The unfortunate fact of a data breach is that it’s time-consuming and costly to get everything repaired. 

You could get all of the compensation you deserve at the end of the day, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be completely whole. At the very least, though, you need to get the situation under control and do whatever you can to repair your credit score. 

5. Create New Accounts

The final move for you is to clean the slate and create all new accounts with the institutions you’ve been breached from. It might also be a good idea to change the passwords and account numbers on every online application that has your financial information logged into it. 

Do a comprehensive sweep of these accounts and be sure to change the passwords on all of them. In a lot of cases, we have the same passwords for all of our accounts and this makes it extremely easy for hackers to sweep through our information and take what they want. 

Resetting your online presence is the first step toward a safer situation. 

When all is said and done, be sure to install great anti-virus software on your computer to prevent these things from ever happening again if possible. 

Want to Learn More about Data Security

Staying safe online is a difficult process that requires a lot of attention. There’s a lot to learn about how to remain safe and what you can do to prevent data breaches. 

Explore our site for more insight into your options for protection. 

Samantha Gaines wrote this article on behalf of FreeUp. FreeUp is the fastest-growing freelance marketplace in the US. FreeUp only accepts the top 1% of freelance applicants. Click here to get access to the top freelancers in the world.   

SFGATE and Hearst partners may earn revenue when readers click affiliate links in this article.

Let me just add that geoFence was designed and coded by US citizens to the strictest standards and I am sure your friends would feel the same.

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