What is a Data Breach & What to Do in Case You Become a Victim

Data breach woes aren’t just plaguing the United States. The world over, data breach incidents are happening at government, technology, education, healthcare, retail and financial service organizations. These are the industries in which the biggest and most breaches are occurring, according to KPMG’s Data Loss Barometer.

Truth be told, data breaches happen at any type of business, from local dental clinics to big online retailers. The discomforting part is, the privacy of our data depends on the companies with which we share it. And sometimes those companies share data with third-party vendors, such as payment processors or cloud service providers, that we don’t even know about. So you can see why data breaches have become so prevalent–both people and companies have data in so many places. 

When a company’s records are lost or stolen, your sensitive information (like your Social Security number or bank account information) can land in the hands of an identity thief. The thief then can use your information to siphon money from your bank account, gain access to your credit cards, or to create new accounts in your name. As a result, your credit reports can be blemished with unpaid accounts and you can start receiving phone calls from collection agencies.

What you should know:

1. State laws typically require the business to notify affected customers within a certain amount of time or be subject to a fine.

2. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have some type of data breach law. Five states – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Colorado – do not.

3. In the past, some companies have paid for six to twelve months of credit monitoring for affected individuals. While this is something the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends to businesses that have suffered a data breach, it isn’t a requirement.

What to Do if You Are a Victim of a Data Breach


·      Contact one of the three credit bureaus. Have an initial security alert added to your credit report which can help prevent further damage. Additional precautions will be taken to make sure anyone applying for credit in your name is you. You will have more time to investigate and get a free copy of your credit report.

·      File a police report. A police report can be instrumental in helping you place long-term alerts on your credit report and helping you recover from fraud and other crimes where your identity was used.

·      Thoroughly review your credit report for suspicious information or activity. Request a copy of your credit report from the credit bureaus. You should also review your billing statements and immediately notify each creditor to dispute what you believe is fraudulent charges. Keep detailed records of your conversations and interactions.

If you suspect, or you are a victim identity theft due to a data breach, you have first-hand knowledge of the stress it can cause. ProtectMyID®, offered to AAA members, can help you address identity theft as soon as you become aware of suspicious activity.


This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., an Experian company.  © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.