Are Data Breaches Truly Dangerous?
Data breaches seem to happen every week in America, to the point that most of us have become desensitized to the news. The routine is always the same: notification, apology and then recommendations for affected users (get a new card, change your account password, monitor your financial accounts, etc.).
With the frequency of data breaches, we have to wonder if they’re really all that dangerous. Do people still have their identities stolen, and can the information from a data breach lead to identity theft?
It’s a matter of what kind of information is stolen and revealed during the data breach. For instance, debit card numbers are not much use if they do not have a corresponding PIN with them. Stolen Social Security Numbers alone are not as dangerous unless the thief has the corresponding name or date of birth.
Take for example the recent Alteryx data breach that exposed household information for 123 million Americans. There were no names or identifying features leaked in the breach, and the data included was mostly related to marketing. That does have value to select parties, but the Americans included in the breach should not see any major repercussions.
The most common result of a data breach is someone’s card information being stolen, in which case the card may be used for unauthorized purchases or money transfers. Most banks and credit card providers have security protocol in place to watch for potentially fraudulent transactions, and will temporarily freeze a card after suspicious activity. If you try to use your card after the freeze, the transaction will be declined.
Data breaches can be dangerous if there is enough information to piece together your identity. In that case, thieves can open up new accounts, destroy your credit report and even divert your tax refund to themselves. If you did shop at a store where a breach occurs, and the breach includes enough information to piece together your identity, you may want to consider the free credit monitoring that most affected stores offer. Or possibly even a credit freeze.
In this day and age when security breaches are occurring on a regular basis, it is a good idea to check your card and bank accounts daily, just to make sure you catch an unauthorized charge.
So, don’t panic when you hear of a data breach. But do remain vigilant in protecting your data.