You hear of new data breaches just about every month. Target, the Home Depot and Nieman Marcus have all been victims of cyber attackers, but they’re not alone; websites like LinkedIn have also experienced data breaches. If you shop in these locations or use these sites (and, who doesn’t?) you may fear your personal data will fall into the wrong hands.

According to Experian, there are several ways to know if your identity has been compromised. Pay attention if you stop receiving bills in the mail, if you are denied credit, or if you have weird charges appearing on your banking statements — these can all be indicators that your information is being used by someone else. If you think your information may have been compromised, don’t panic. Learn which data breach response steps you should take.

Five Things to Do After a Data Breach

  1. Find Out What Was Compromised

    Not all information is created equal — some aspects of your personal information are more sensitive than others. By figuring out what information was hacked, you will be able to target your cleanup efforts and respond to the breach more efficiently. Was the hacker able to get your name and address, or did they capture credit card information or your social security number? Knowing what information (or combination of info) was stolen will give you an idea about where to focus your cleanup efforts.

    If you were part of a data breach, the store should reach out to you and let you know what information was exposed to hackers. But, you can also keep an eye on credit reports for telltale indicators: accounts that you don’t recognize and inquiries about your data that you didn’t make are both signs.

  2. Change Passwords

    It may sound like a simple step, but it’s crucial. Change your passwords so that the hacker isn’t able to imitate you online, access your accounts or gain access to even more information. Hackers are often looking to build a “profile” and the more information they are able to obtain, the easier it will be for them to assume your identity. The simplest way to avoid this is to change your password immediately if you think your information may be affected.

  3. Change Account Numbers

    If you think your credit card may have been compromised, contact your bank and change your card number. When speaking with your bank, ask them to be on the lookout for suspicious activity on your account — you will want to dispute charges you didn’t make, so keep an eye on upcoming statements for the next three months after your information has been compromised.

  4. Add a Fraud Alert

    In addition to having your bank or credit card company keep a watchful eye, contact the credit reporting bureaus to initiate a fraud alert. When you have a fraud alert associated with your social security number, no one will be able to open a new account with your name and information without the credit reporting bureaus first alerting you. The credit reporting bureau will want to verify that you initiated the new account and verify that you did, in fact, apply for the new card or line of credit.

    Save time – when you alert one credit reporting bureau, they will contact the other two credit reporting bureaus on your behalf. You only need to make one phone call or register one fraud alert to be protected.

  5. File Taxes Early

  6. This may seem like a strange tip, but often when data breaches occur over the holidays, hackers have a broader plan in mind: intercepting your tax return in April. By filing your taxes early, you will avoid tax scams before they happen.

    Speaking of taxes, remember that the IRS does not initiate contact via email, text or social media. If the IRS is looking to speak with you, they will send you a letter and ask you to contact them. You will be able to look online and verify that the phone number they provided in the letter is legitimate and trustworthy.

Tips to Keep in Mind

Scams take many different forms, and scammers are always trying new things to see if they can learn more information about you. Be vigilant about protecting your information. If someone calls you and tells you they are from your bank or credit card company, and then asks you for information, it’s OK to question the person on the other end of the line. This could be a scammer trying to get even more information than they already have. If you have any doubts that you are truly speaking to someone from your bank, simply hang up and call the phone number on the back of your card or one of the numbers provided on their website. True bank employees will appreciate your diligence when you take this step.

Whether you shop online or in store, your information could be exposed in a data breach, and how you clean it up can be crucial. Did you know that Farm Bureau offers identity theft protection? Your local Farm Bureau agent can help you understand this coverage and help you protect your sensitive information.