5 Steps to Take After a Data Breach

Concerned woman talking on the phone while on a laptop.

Another year, another record number of data breaches in the United States — 353 million Americans were impacted by data breaches in 2023. That’s 2,365 more people than the previous record according to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center, which tracks publicly reported incidents of compromised personal information and consumer data in the U.S.  

A data breach can expose confidential information of its victims, including Social Security numbers, account information, credit card numbers, and passwords. If your personal information has been compromised by a data breach, take the following five steps to mitigate the damage.

Step 1: Be on the Lookout for Communications and Next Steps

Any business whose data has been compromised in a breach generally reaches out to all potential victims to notify them about the incident. It may instruct all recipients of this notification to check for signs that their information has been exposed and/or direct them to the next step.  

If you believe your information may have been compromised in a data breach, it’s important to read every message you receive from the company that was breached.

Step 2: Alert TwinStar

Let TwinStar know that your account may have been compromised. This way, we can place an alert on your account and keep an eye out for signs of fraud. Things we will look out for include requests to approve any large transaction or withdrawal. We will always contact you if we notice any suspicious activity.

Step 3: Change any Compromised Passwords

A data breach generally means various passwords have been compromised. It’s best to change as many of your passwords as possible after a breach to keep your personal information protected and secure.  

The quickest (and easiest) way to do this is by using a password manager, which allows you to store unique, complex passwords for all your individual accounts. Although it’s important to have different passwords for all your accounts, start by changing passwords of accounts that were directly impacted by the data breach. 

Step 4: Freeze Your Credit 

A credit freeze alerts lenders and credit companies to the fact that you may have been a victim of fraud. This added layer of protection will make it difficult or impossible for hackers to open a new credit line or loan in your name.  

However, if you are applying for a loan soon (a car, house, credit card, etc.), complete the loan process before considering a credit freeze. Removing a credit freeze can be a complex procedure. 

You can freeze your credit at no cost with all three of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian. You’ll need to provide some basic information and you’ll receive a PIN for the freezes. You use these PIN numbers to lift the freezes when you believe it is safe to do so or need to for loan purposes.

Step 5: File an identity theft report

If any of your accounts have been compromised and you believe your identity has been stolen, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately. This will assist the feds in tracking down the scammers responsible for the data breach. It will also help you return your finances to their usual state as quickly as possible. 

You should take the following precautionary measures to protect your information from future data breaches of any kind: 

  • Monitor your credit. It’s a good idea to check your credit accounts on a regular basis for suspicious activity. You may also want to sign up for credit monitoring, a service that will cost you anywhere from $10 to $40 a month for the peace of mind of notifying you immediately about any suspicious activity on your accounts. 
  • Use strong and unique passwords. Use a different password for each account you have and choose ones that are at least eight characters long. Use a variety of numbers, letters, and symbols – and vary your capitalization use as well. Choose two-factor authentication when possible, and biometric authentication, such as face recognition or fingerprint sign-in, for stronger protection. 
  • Browse safely. Never share sensitive information online and always keep your security settings at their strongest levels. 

Final Thoughts

As hackers get more creative with their attacks, data breaches will continue to occur. The unfortunate reality for most businesses is that it’s not a matter of if, but when, they will be breached. So, it’s important for all of us as consumers to safeguard our online accounts and make it more difficult for hackers to do damage. In the event of data breach, being proactive can save you a lot of financial headaches. You can help mitigate the impact of data breaches with quick and effective responses.