Another Massive Data BreachIt seems like almost every month there is news of yet another massive online data breach. Capital One is just the latest company to make headlines for failing to safeguard customers’ personal info.

About 100 million credit card customers and applicants across the country — including individuals and small businesses — had their information compromised. This includes credit scores, credit limits, balances, payment history and contact information. Hackers could have potentially accessed other information — like home and email addresses, phone numbers and self-reported income — as well. And, perhaps most troubling of all, there were an estimated 140,000 Social Security numbers compromised.

Safeguarding Your Information

“If you needed yet another nudge to start keeping an eye on your credit report to protect against identity theft, Capital One has delivered it,” wrote Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attorney Seena Gressin in an article on the FTC website.

It’s great advice, because even if you weren’t a victim of the Capital One data breach, this is hardly the first time an event like this has happened — and it most likely won’t be the last.

So while there’s no way to 100% protect your personal information from being hacked, there are several preventative measures you can take to help reduce the risk of online data breaches.

Get answers

If you are affected by the Capital One data breach, the company has established a hotline to help address customers’ concerns (The number is 1-800-227-4825). You can also get some answers to basic questions on their frequently-asked-questions page.

Check for suspicious activity

Sign up for online or text alerts of credit card usage. Capital One is providing free credit monitoring and identity protection to everyone affected. Even if you weren’t affected or aren’t a Capital One customer, see if your card provider offers a similar service and be sure to check your statement regularly.

Change passwords

Using the same password across multiple sites may be convenient for you, but it’s also a practice that benefits hackers — as it gives them access to other sites or accounts linked to that hacked account. In the Captial One breach, “80,000 linked bank account numbers of our secured credit card customers” were exposed. Try using a unique password for each online account you have. The FTC’s advice on picking a new password: “Make your password long, strong and complex. That means at least twelve characters, mixed with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.”

Take advantage of a free annual credit checkup

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to a free annual credit reports from major reporting firms Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This can be done by going to or calling 1-877-322-8228. The form to request credit reports can also be mailed. Be sure to review your reports closely and keep an eye out for items that seem unfamiliar. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize are potential instances of identity theft.

Put your credit in a “deep freeze” to make it harder for criminals to prey on you

The same firms that supply a free credit report — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — can also provide free credit freezes, which block access to your credit files. This makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name but won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You can request a freeze from the credit companies online or by phone. But keep in mind this can also affect legitimate queries into your credit — such as financing a car or applying for a mortgage. If you are planning to apply for credit, you’ll likely need to unfreeze your accounts for that application to go through and be approved.

Ask the credit reporting agencies to place a “fraud alert” on your credit report

Fraud alerts are free from all three major credit reporting agencies and will warn creditors that you may be a victim of ID theft. With an alert set up, businesses must verify your identity before issuing you credit. The alert stays on your report for a period of time and can be renewed.

Be aware of post-breach “phishing scams” by criminals taking advantage of the news

Both the FTC and Capital One warn against answering emails and calls purportedly from the bank about the scandal. Capital One tells consumers that it won’t ask for personal information in emails or unsolicited calls. It’s always a good idea to confirm the legitimacy of anyone who claims to be handling your financial information — and who is seeking personal details from you. When in doubt, call the number of the company and confirm they need the information you’re being asked to provide.

Stay Vigilant

The Capital One breach comes just a week after the FTC announced that Equifax agreed to pay at least $575 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged that Equifax failed to take reasonable steps to secure its network — a failure that led to a data breach that affected approximately 147 million people.

But Capital One and Equifax aren’t — unfortunately — unique. Data breaches are now a part of daily life, and hackers seem to be growing more and more sophisticated in their methods.

As a result, ongoing credit monitoring is absolutely essential to safeguarding your personal information and credit.

Contact us here at Filler for more details on how you can strengthen your private financial information against misuse and fraud.