How to protect your financial information
Data breaches hit an all-time high last year, which means the risk of having your personal information stolen is also increasing.
According to IBM’s annual global study, the average data breach costs businesses $4.24 million. This is the highest in the 17-year history of IBM’s report.
This research and similar studies always frame these breaches from the perspective of the hacked company. But what if you are one of the customers whose data is exposed in a breach?
Although there are safeguards in place to protect you from the financial consequences of fraud, it can take months (or even years) to clear it from your records. And until that happens, you might have bad credit that interferes with how easily you can qualify for online loans and lines of credit.
A bad credit score can even get in the way of a job, a new apartment, or car insurance. Like online direct lenders, an employer, landlord, or insurance company can check your credit to make decisions about your character.
With so much at stake, an ounce of prevention is better than cure when it comes to fraud. You’ll want to follow these tips to keep your financial information private, whether you’re banking, borrowing money, or shopping online.
Do not share your information often
Your personal information is confidential. Only legitimate retailers, online direct lenders, schools, and government entities should see this data. And they should only access this information in specific circumstances.
When it comes to borrowing money online, you will have to share your personal information in an online application form. However, you do not need to send financial details to a lender before this step. Only send this information after verifying that the lender in question has a robust security policy.
You can securely compare a personal loan or line of credit without ever having to reveal your personal information. In fact, you should go through these details in incognito mode.
Do not repeat passwords
Reusing the same email and password combination for all your financial accounts makes you even more vulnerable to fraud. If a data breach affects one account, it exposes your login credentials for all of your financial accounts.
By creating a unique password for each account, you will isolate your exposure to that single account. This can make it easier to recover from identity theft.
Better yet, create a unique passphrase for each account. A passphrase can be an unrelated phrase or set of words containing special characters. This sequence of words is statistically harder to break than traditional passwords.
Take a close look at your statements
Every year, you have three chances to check your credit report for free. See this link to learn how.
When you do, read your credit report carefully, line by line. You will want to keep an eye out for any inaccuracies or errors. Even a small misspelling in your name could cause problems down the line.
Check each credit account in your name to make sure its payment history and balance owing match your records. You will also need to look for payday cash advances that you do not recognize in your file.
If you see anything that looks suspicious in your file, contact the credit bureau that generates the report. You can also visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn more about your next steps.
Fraudsters target the biggest financial institutions because of all the information they have about their customers. While large companies have a legal obligation to protect the data they collect from you, sometimes their protocols aren’t enough. A talented hacker can bypass their defenses.
That’s why you should do everything possible to protect your information whenever you share it. Subtle changes to how you browse online, manage passphrases, and review your accounts can reduce the effects of a data breach on your finances.