Events like the recent Capital One breach or the broader can leave you feeling vulnerable and helpless -- and rightfully so. It's one thing to have your or account compromised, but being the victim of a financial institution getting hacked adds a whole new level of distress.
Our bank accounts hold some of our most personal information such as social security numbers, our credit and debit card numbers, where we live and our financial records.
When someone has all of your private information, it's natural to feel like there's nothing you can do to prevent any further damage. But that's not the case -- there's a lot you can do to make sure your credit, identity and online accounts remain yours.
Temporarily freeze your credit
One of the first things you should do is put a freeze on your credit. Doing so will prevent anyone with your information from opening a line of credit, or taking out any loans under your name. Freezing your credit won't take long, you'll just need to fill out a form for Equifax, Experian, and Transunion to make the request.
The downside to freezing your credit is that when you want to make a purchase, such as upgrading your iPhone through a payment plan, you'll need to go through the process of briefly removing your credit freeze -- and then freezing it again once you're done.
Next, monitor your credit
Staying on top of what's on your credit report is an easy way to make sure someone isn't using your information nefariously. Some companies offer free credit monitoring to victims of a data breach, but often times that's only temporary.
Credit monitoring services help you watch your credit report, where you can hopefully catch false accounts as soon as they happen.
Sign up for identity theft monitoring
Monitoring your credit report is an important step to take, however, there's so much more that can be done with your personal information. An identity-monitoring service will monitor your social security number, credit, as well as the dark web for anyone selling or trading your personal information or arrests under your name. It should give you peace of mind if someone tries to do anything with your personal information.
Use a Password manager
Using a unique and strong password for every online account you own is an easy way to make sure a breach of one service doesn't lead to bad guys accessing more of your online accounts where you used the same password.
Instead of reusing a password -- or a series of passwords -- rely on a password manager to create, store and autofill your login information.
Don't wait to take action
The most important aspect of taking action after a hack or breach is announced is to not wait for impacted companies to announce how they want you to handle it. Be proactive. At the end of the day, it's your information and your financial future that's at stake.
After locking down your credit and starting monitoring services, then begin to look at suggestions from the impacted companies.
Some breaches lead to settlements, forcing the affected company to offer free services or, as in the Equifax case, offer settlements.