The Capital One Breach and Staying Safe Online: An (Unfortunately) Ongoing SeriesSubmitted by Bernhardt Wealth Management on September 3rd, 2019
Adding to the long and growing list of data breaches committed against major financial and retail organizations, a hacker allegedly gained access to the personal financial data of about 100 million Capital One customers in July. The individual, a former employee of Amazon.com, was arrested and indicted after posting information about her escapade on GitHub, a software development site owned by Microsoft.
In early August, Capital One released information to the public with an information site that gives details about the incident. The site also provides FAQs, instructions about remediation provided by Capital One, and a toll-free number that customers can call to get more information.
Sadly, in an age when information—and access to it, both legal and otherwise—is expanding at an exponential rate, incidents like this latest breach and its many predecessors are unlikely to become less frequent. This means that individuals who are either online themselves or who use financial and other services that depend on communicating over the internet—and that includes just about everybody—will need to become more vigilant about protecting and monitoring important personal data: Social Security and drivers’ license numbers, credit card and banking information, medical data, and other important information that hackers can use to commit identity theft and other types of fraudulent activity.
As we mentioned in a recent blog post, it’s probably impossible for most of us to completely insulate ourselves from the risk of exposing our information to online bad guys. But there are things that everyone can do to greatly reduce the odds that our data can be misused in catastrophic ways. Here’s a reminder of some of the most important self-help tips for online safety:
- Set up and monitor your Social Security account. Especially if you’re approaching age 62, creating and monitoring your account at ssa.gov is vital to preventing a hacker from using your Social Security number to receive fraudulent payments in your name. Even if you aren’t yet receiving payments, check the account at least annually to make sure everything looks correct.
- At least once a year, look at your credit reports. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, the major credit reporting agencies, will provide you with one free credit report annually. You should review each of these to make sure that any loans or other activity reflect your actual credit history. If you see something that looks unfamiliar, report it immediately.
- Read your credit card and bank statements every month. Don’t just assume that the bank and your credit card company will automatically catch any suspicious activity. They probably will, but they’re your accounts, so the primary responsibility is still yours. Look at your transactions, and if you see something that doesn’t look like you did it, get in touch with the company immediately.
- If you think you’ve been scammed, use the Federal Trade Commission website to learn what you can do to recover. There are plenty of free resources at your disposal; use them!
We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected, and that genie is probably not going back in the bottle. So, stay alert, keep an eye on your accounts, and reach out to the authorities when you need help.