Worried About the Capital One Data Breach? Here’s How To Protect Yourself
July 31, 2019
The Capital One data breach, in which a hacker gained access to the personal information of more than 100 million credit card applicants and cardholders, serves as a chilling reminder that everyone’s personal data is at risk. Even though, as Capital One has said, no credit card numbers or login credentials were exposed, every credit card customer in America — that’s most of us, right? — is worried about his or her own information.
At GHP Investment Advisors (GHPIA), our team is always on the alert for security breaches, scams, frauds, and other attempts to compromise our clients’ information. GHPIA Financial Planning Associate Deirdre McGuire has compiled a data-protection checklist of simple tasks you can perform to help safeguard your identity and frustrate attempted hacks on your financial information and other personal data.
Shred documents. Identity thieves aren’t just lurking online.
Use secure websites. Most will have a page explaining their security and privacy policies; if you read those and still don’t feel comfortable, don’t give them your data.
Give your Social Security number only when absolutely required. And it almost never is.
Run a reputable anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-spyware software to clean your computer. Once you have ensured your computer is virus/malware/spyware free, you should change passwords on your accounts.
Create strong passwords using a unique, long string of uppercase and lowercase letters, non-sequential numbers, and special-character symbols.
Use unique ID and password combinations for your financial accounts. In fact, you shouldn’t use any such combination for more than one online account.
Frequently monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Look for names, addresses, phone numbers, and accounts you do not recognize. Close any open accounts that you do not still use. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
File your taxes early, as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Be aware of phishing schemes. Do not follow links in emails that appear to be from your bank, credit card, or brokerage firm. You can spot fake emails by unfamiliar email addresses, requests for your password or account number (legitimate firms won’t ask for such data in an email), and errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
Add additional authentication requirements to your bank or brokerage accounts. For example, Charles Schwab allows for account holders to use such tools as VoiceID, verbal passwords, or security tokens. They can add these to their verification by calling Schwab Alliance at 800-515-2157.
Consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze takes your credit report out of circulation and places restrictions on who can gain access to your credit report, keeping credit card companies and other lenders from issuing new credit in your name. It remains in effect as long as you want, but there is a charge for each credit bureau. Credit freezes can be a hassle because you will also have to call for short-term removal of freeze, and some bureaus charge a fee for that as well. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts, or from holding onto your stolen data could be held for years before using it.
If you think your data have been hacked, consider a credit/fraud alert. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
Consider a credit monitoring service such as Lifelock or Costco. Customers provide the credit monitoring service with their Social Security number, birth date, and other data, and the company scans for credit applications, mortgage loan applications, address changes and other signs of identity theft. GHPIA clients with a Professional Services Reimbursement Allowance may use that allowance to pay for a monitoring service.
If you believe your data have been breached, here’s a downloadable checklist of actions to take, prepared for us by Schwab. And if you’re a GHPIA client, please email us or call us at (303) 831-5051. Our Financial Concierge Service team is happy to help clients untangle tricky situations like this or take other burdensome financial tasks off your plate.