Data Breach

Data breaches vary in the manner in which the information is exposed and the type of information that is exposed. Breaches can be accidental, like the loss of a laptop computer containing unencrypted files, or deliberate, like a criminal hacking incident. The type of information that is exposed can put you at more or less risk of identity theft – files containing account numbers alone are less valuable to identity thieves than account numbers with addresses and dates of births, for example.

ITAC recommends consumers take the following precautions if they believe their information has been exposed.

  • Take data breach notices seriously. Although most data breaches do not result in fraud, research shows that consumers who receive notices are at higher risk than those who do not receive notices. Take advantage of any free monitoring services that are offered as a result of the breach.
  • Change Your Passwords. Change the password on your online account where the breach has occurred. If you have the same password for multiple accounts, change those as well. Read our suggestions for creating strong passwords  to protect your self from fraud.
  • Watch for phishing attempts and malware attacks. Now that the criminals have information about you, they may try to trick you into giving up more information through fraudulent emails. Be suspicious of urgent emails requesting information and never open attachments you aren’t expecting even if it’s from someone you know. Visit our cybersecurity section for more information.
  • Be suspicious of requests for information through the mail. If the thieves have your street address, they may try to send you something that looks official and asks for personal information or money.
  • Monitor your financial statements. Monitoring your accounts online for suspicious activity is always a good idea. Don’t wait until you get account statements in the mail. The sooner you report fraud the better chance you have of minimizing the damage to your finances.
  • Consider putting a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert tells the credit reporting agencies that you may be a victim of identity theft and to be on the alert for anyone trying to open an account in your name. A fraud alert lasts at least 90 days and can be extended. Visit our victim assistance pages .
  • Check your credit report each year. Under the law, you are entitled to one free credit report each year from the three credit reporting agencies. Be sure to review and contact the credit bureau if there is any incorrect or suspicious activity. Visit to get started.
  • For more information, read the FTC's consumer alert, What to do if your personal information is compromised.
Was your business breached?

Data breach laws and regulations vary on the type of information that was breached and the state where the breach occurred. Intersections Inc. has this guide for businesses that have suffered a breach of consumer information - Intersections Information Breach Consumer Notification Guide. It provides guidance on how and what to tell consumers in the event of a breach.


Copyright © 2013    ITAC, the Identity Theft Assistance Center, is the national advocate for identity theft victims and a leading voice on identity policy. Millions of consumers have access to the ITAC victim assistance service through our members - the financial services companies who support ITAC and offer it as a free service for their customers. ITAC is dedicated to protecting all consumers through education, research and the criminal prosecution of identity crime.