Financial Tips

Some Stolen Personal Data Is More Sensitive Than Others

A data breach or any other exposure of sensitive data can lead to the theft of your personal information, which can then be used to target financial accounts or to commit fraud in your name.

But not all data is equal. The more sensitive the information, the more valuable it is to crooks and the more damaging it can be to you.

The most sensitive stolen data is anything thieves can use to access your financial accounts or to pose as you when doing things such as filing taxes or applying for credit. This information includes:

  • Debit or credit card numbers and security codes.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • And passwords to your online accounts.

You should also be concerned if information such as your date of birth, online account challenge questions or other information that is not easily found falls into the wrong hands. When combined with other pieces of data about you, crooks can use this to cause financial headaches.

If you hear of data beaches that include sensitive information that you have shared with a business, financial institution or a government agency, you should take steps quickly to prevent or minimize the potential fallout:

  • Change your passwords immediately. Experts say you should have a different password for each sensitive account – especially financial accounts.
  • Contact your financial institution or card issuers and explain the situation. They might issue you new cards.
  • Monitor your bank and credit accounts regularly and report any suspicious activity immediately. Online and mobile banking make this easy, and you can even set alerts that can indicate problems.
  • Check your credit report for questionable activity and request a fraud alert if you think you are an identity theft victim. Learn more about credit reports and alerts at annualcreditreport.com.

While you might not be able to always protect sensitive information from theft, it’s important to know that some pieces of data are more important than others and you should take steps to protect yourself as soon as possible.