Have you been notified that you may be the victim of a potential data breach?

You should take steps as if you were a victim of a data breach.

Consumer advice after a data breach is generally the same: If you learn your personal information has been compromised, monitor your accounts closely and not just for a few months. Look for strange charges - even for small amounts - and report them to your credit or debit card company as soon as possible. Watch for fake emails and other correspondence that's likely to come. Don't be fooled by an email or phone call saying a company is contacting you about the breach and it needs you to verify your information.

You also can take advantage of the free credit monitoring services provided by the company whose data has been breached.

However, the best preventative measure for all consumers, whether or not they are potential breach victims, is to place a credit freeze on your credit report.

The freezes are now free nationwide to place or lift. You should also freeze a spouse’s account. A freeze has no effect on use or access to your existing credit, but blocks new credit unless you lift the freeze.

Here’s more information to place a freeze:

‒Equifax: 888-298-0045 or https://www.equifax.com/personal/contact-us

‒Experian: 888-397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

‒TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or https://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze

For more tips on how to protect yourself and help if you've become a victim of ID theft, go to the Identity Theft Center's website at www.idtheftcenter.org or call 888-400-5530.

By law, you can also always get a free copy of your credit reports from all three bureaus once a year by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 877-322-8228. You must disclose your Social Security number to verify your identity. Identity theft victims can get reports for free.

To read a column by Consumer columnist Betty Lin-Fisher about how to get your credit report, go to www.tinyrul.com/creditreportbetty To read a column about credit freezes, go to www.tinyurl.com/creditfreezebetty

 

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/topics/linfisher