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We often get notice that our data was breached at a business where we have had transactions. Mike Foster at shares practical steps to take to protect your financial interests. There are quite a few. Pick one to get started.

Protecting Your Financial Interests in the Wake of a Major Data Breach

by  | Apr/21/2024

In today’s digital age, the security of your personal information is more than a convenience – it’s a crucial aspect of your financial strategy. Recently, a significant breach at a major phone provider has put the personal data of 73 million individuals at risk, including high-net-worth individuals like yourself. This exposed data includes not only names and contact details but also sensitive information such as social security numbers, dates of birth, and account credentials. The potential financial repercussions are substantial, making it imperative to take action to safeguard your assets. Follow these guidelines to mitigate risks and ensure your financial security remains uncompromised.

Credit Freeze

If you haven’t already, consider freezing your credit to prevent new credit accounts from being opened in your name without your permission. Here are in-depth instructions and details: Help Protect Your Financial Future: Freeze Your Credit – Foster Institute

Monitor Financial Accounts

Keep a close watch on your financial accounts for any unauthorized activity or transactions. Consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service, which can help monitor your information and alert you to potential misuse of your personal data. If you didn’t place the credit freeze mentioned above, doing so is essential.

Beware of Fraud and Scams

Beware of email, text, phone calls, or messages popping up on your computer that claim you are hacked and offer tech support help. Familiarize yourself and your family with the latest fraud techniques. Be skeptical of emails, phone calls, or messages that request personal information or direct you to websites asking for personal or financial data.

Be Cautious with Search Engine Results that are Ads

Threat actors can purchase ads so that, if you search for keywords such as ‘My phone provider database was hacked,’ the ad, disguised as a helpful search result, will appear at the top. This can lead you to a page designed to defraud you or compromise your computer

To help protect yourself, when you search, scroll down and click on the organic search results rather than the ads. You are more likely to access safer websites.

Malicious advertising is not limited to search engines. Advertisements on websites can be just as dangerous. These attacks are called malvertising and trick millions of users each year.

Change Passwords Immediately

If you haven’t recently, change passwords for all your accounts including phone provider, social media, banking, and other sensitive accounts, especially if you’ve used the same password for multiple accounts.

Use a Password Manager

Consider using a password manager to manage your unique passwords on every website. Detailed information about using password managers: Password Managers Speed Your Workflow – Foster Institute

Set Up Unique Security Questions

When setting up security questions, avoid real answers that are easy for a bad actor to research. Instead, use fictional answers like, “The fourth crater on the moon.” Save your secret answers in a randomly named file such as “socks.docx,” and consider encrypting this file for added safety.

Enable Two-Step Verification

Enable two-step verification for accounts. Prioritize setting this up on sensitive websites and services where it’s available.

Update Operating Systems and Software

Ensure that all your devices have the latest security software, web browsers, and operating systems updates and patches. This is one of the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats.

Secure Your Tax Identity with an Account

Given that social security numbers were compromised, there’s an elevated risk of someone attempting to file a fraudulent federal tax return in your name. To combat this, consider registering for an account which provides access to IRS services. With this account, you can also apply for an IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) that adds an extra layer of security to your tax filings by requiring this unique six-digit number on your tax return.

Protect Your Property Records

With personal details like your SSN in the wrong hands, even your home ownership documents could be targeted. It’s advisable to monitor and possibly register your property deeds with services that alert you to any unauthorized filings or changes. While a universal solution for this isn’t available yet, taking initial steps such as contacting your local county clerk’s office to inquire about protective measures can be beneficial.

Awareness for Business Impact

Businesses, particularly those utilizing services from the breached provider, should be acutely aware of the implications this breach can have on their operations. It’s crucial for business owners to assess their exposure and strengthen their internal security measures, including employee training on data privacy and regular security audits to prevent further damage.

Register for Online Tax Accounts in All States

To prevent the misuse of your personal information for fraudulent state tax filings, consider registering for an online tax account in each of the 50 states. This pre-emptive registration can block identity thieves from creating accounts in your name, a tactic increasingly used to commit tax fraud across state lines.

Digital Footprint and Data Sharing

Be vigilant about the information you share online and through mobile applications. It’s crucial to minimize data sharing and scrutinize the permissions you grant to apps, especially those that request access to sensitive personal information. Educate yourself and limit exposures to safeguard against unauthorized data usage. The less information threat actors can gather about you, the more difficult it will be for them to misuse your identity.

Review and Update Privacy Settings

Regularly review and update your privacy settings on social media and other online platforms to ensure minimal public exposure of personal information. This proactive measure can significantly deter fraudsters from using accessible data to facilitate identity theft or scams.

Legal and Financial Consultation

Consult with legal and financial advisors to explore additional protective measures tailored to your personal or business circumstances. Discuss setting up legal structures such as trusts to shield assets, or other strategies that may offer enhanced security against identity theft and financial fraud.

Emergency Contacts and Protocols

Prepare an emergency contact list and establish protocols for immediate action if you suspect identity theft or if a data breach occurs. Include the contact information for essential services such as credit bureaus, your bank, and legal advisers, to ensure a swift and organized response to security threats.

Forward this message to your friends so they can follow these steps can help mitigate the damage from the breach and protect their personal information.

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