Cyber Liability

Protect Yourself as a Consumer Following a Data Breach

7/31/2019 | Stephanie Marsh

If you’ve followed along with this cyber series that we’ve shared on our platforms these last few weeks, you’ll know we began this topic in response to a current event in which a local Indiana municipality fell victim to a ransomware attack.  If you’ve tuned in to the local or national news, it is highly likely you’ve heard mention of both Equifax and Capital One recently.  Those breaches provided inspiration for this post, and we’d like to share the following information as a warning to consumers and to help safeguard online information. 

Cyber Storm Chasers

When you hear the term ‘storm chaser’, do you immediately picture Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in their red Dodge Ram pickup truck from the 1996 film Twister?  In insurance, the term ‘storm chaser’ has a somewhat negative connotation relating to contractors or companies preying on heavily damaged areas and seeking out damaged homes for quick repairs.  Due to the nature of their business, they might not be properly licensed or insured to be operating in your state and have a reputation for taking advantage of the situation between the homeowner and their insurance company.  With regards to the recent news of the Equifax and Capital One data breaches impacting millions of consumers, it is important to remain on high alert to avoid ‘storm chasers’ taking advantage of the situation.

I know you’re probably thinking, there was no actual storm, there was no physical damage, how could there be a target left behind as a result of a data breach?!  Think back to our first post where we discussed phishing, the fraudulent practice of sending emails alleging to be from reputable individuals or companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.  What these mass breaches did was create an opportunity for mass phishing scams to follow.  By impersonating sites to check if you were impacted, hackers can attempt to get consumers to enter their social security numbers.  Hackers just gained access to new content to deploy fraudulent emails with links to follow to see if you were impacted or scare you that you were, so you click to investigate.

The Indiana Attorney General issued a warning to Hoosiers following the Equifax breach to be aware of online scams associated with the breach. Capital One also warns of the phishing attempts on their website and clearly underlines that they are not calling customers to ask for information or social security numbers via phone or email.  Should you receive any phishing attempts from Capital One, there is information on their website with where to report it to prevent others from falling victim to the attempt as well.  

Board Up Your (Figurative) Financial Windows

When a hurricane is coming, coastal residents board up the windows and place sandbags to safeguard their homes.  With the cyber storm that is brewing globally, it is time to prepare ourselves in an attempt to lessen impact and prevent damage.  

There are options available to consumers who have been breached as well as those who have not been should they wish to take preventive measures.  There are many repeatable credit monitoring companies that specialize in keeping your data safe and preventing you from theft.  These services are usually available for a monthly fee, should you be the victim of a data breach, these credit monitoring services might be provided for you at no cost as part of your settlement. 

Consumers can set up fraud alert services or freeze their credit by contacting the three credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax.  Both options are free and while they each have their pros and cons unique to your preferences, they do provide a check and balance system of prevention and additional layer of security should your information be compromised. The Business Insider recently shared an article detailing this information for those interested.  

Take advantage of the free alerts within your credit card and banking applications.  Chase and Discover, among many others, provide alerts of accounts opened and inquiries made against your credit.  Consider enrolling in account text and email alerts to keep an eye on your activity and contact the banking institution at the first sign of any suspicious activity. 

Make a habit of keeping an eye on your credit score and reviewing your credit report.  Again, some banking applications provide a monthly reflection of your score with no impact to your score.  They also include metrics so you can easily see any monthly fluctuations to your score which could be indicative of an issue.  You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus and most consumer reporting companies will also allow you access to a free report every 12 months.  Like the recommendation for homeowners to replace smoke detector batteries once a year, it is recommended in response to cyber security risks to review your credit report annually to prevent identity theft. 

Opportunity is Knocking

With regards to success, opportunity does not often fall into your lap; it takes a lot of hard work to create strategic opportunities to be successful.  In this situation, unfortunately, these two large, highly publicized breaches have created the opportunity for many hackers and scammers to seize these incidents as their big break in the continuation of cyber crime.