Steps Victims Can Take to Minimize Effect of Data Theft
Every day, the theft of personal and financial information puts people at risk of identity theft. Generally, thieves try to use the stolen data as quickly as possible to:
- Sell the information to other criminals.
- Withdraw money from a bank account.
- Make credit card purchases.
- File a fraudulent tax return for a refund using victims’ names.
Victims of a data loss should follow these steps to minimize the effect of the theft:
- Try to determine what information the thieves compromised. Compromised information may include emails and passwords, or more sensitive data, such as name and Social Security number.
- Take advantage of credit monitoring services when offered by the affected organization.
- Place a freeze on credit accounts to prevent access to credit records. It varies by state, but there may be a fee to place a freeze on an account. At a minimum, victims should place a fraud alert on their credit accounts by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus. A fraud alert isn’t as secure as a freeze, but it’s free.
- Reset passwords on online accounts, especially those of financial sites and email and social media accounts. Use different passwords for each account. Some experts recommend at least 10-digit passwords, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Victims may also wish to consider using a password manager or app.
- Use multi-factor authentication, when available. Some financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow users to set their accounts for multi-factor authentication, which requires a security code, usually sent as a text to their mobile phone, in addition to a username and password.
All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.