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The Capital One Data Breach, and 4 Ways to Protect Yourself

You may have heard of the Equifax data breach of 2017 that compromised the personal and financial information of more than 147 million Americans, but these security breaches are much more common than you may think. Capital One is the latest major American company to have its servers breached, but they tried to downplay how many Americans were affected. 

Capital One data breach

Credit company Capital One recently experienced a data breach that compromised the user information of more than 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians. Though this is a massive breach, the company tried to downplay how many people were affected. 

In a statement, Capital One said, “No bank account numbers or Social Security numbers were compromised, other than: about 140,000 Social Security numbers of our credit card customers” and “about 80,000 linked bank account numbers of our secured credit card customers. For our Canadian credit card customers, approximately 1 million Social Insurance Numbers were compromised in this incident.”

A 33-year-old Seattle woman, Paige Thompson, has been accused of breaking into the company’s servers between March 12 and July 17. The company became aware of the breach on July 19. 

Capital One CEO, Richard D. Fairbank, took personal responsibility in a statement on the issue: “I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right.”

The incident is expected to cost the company between $100 and $150 million in damages and fines. 

Other data breaches

Capital One is not the only major American company to leave its customers’ data vulnerable to breaches. The following companies have also experienced massive data breaches within the past decade. 

  • Target experienced a breach in 2013, which exposed customer information like names and credit card numbers, and cost the company $18.5 million in damages. 
  • Home Depot servers were hacked in 2014, exposing the data of 50 million people. The company paid $25 million. 
  • Uber experienced a breach in 2016. This exposed names and driver’s licenses of more than 600,000 American drivers. 
  • Marriott discovered a breach of their global records in 2018, exposing the data of more than 339 million people. 
  • The Equifax data breach of 2017 exposed the credit files of more than 147 million Americans. The credit reporting agency agreed to pay at least $575 million in fines. 

How to protect your identity

You should always protect your identity online, especially when it comes to financial institutions. Here are four ways you can protect your identity. 

  1. Monitor your credit. Monitoring your credit is easy in 2019. If you don’t want to wait until a full calendar year passes before you can get your next credit report from one of the previously listed reporting agencies, you can sign up for free credit monitoring from reputable credit monitoring agencies like Credit Karma. If you were affected by the Equifax breach in 2017, you may be able to receive free credit monitoring for 10 years
  2. Freeze your credit. If you find you’ve been the victim of a data breach, the first thing you should do is temporarily freeze your credit. This will prevent anyone with your information from opening a line of credit or taking out a loan in your name. This is a fairly simple process that can be completed by filling out a form on the website of Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. If you wish to utilize your credit at some point down the line (like financing the newest smartphone or buying a car), you can briefly unfreeze your credit and then freeze it again when the process is complete. 
  3. Keep an eye on your entire identity. Monitoring your credit is important and necessary, but you should also monitor your complete identity, including your Social Security number. An identity-theft monitoring service can alert you if there is any suspicious activity involving your personal and financial information, even if it occurs in the shadows of the dark web. 
  4. Use a password manager. Using a very strong and unique password for every website is one of the best ways you can protect yourself from a personal data breach. However, these passwords can be hard to remember and keep up with, especially if you have many websites that you utilize frequently. One option is to use a password manager to store your passwords for you and autofill them into your websites. These managers often have a multi-step login process to make sure all of your passwords are protected. Before you commit to one, do your research and make sure it’s a process and company you trust. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 76,000 people have filed complaints regarding Social Security scams over the past year. It can take years to recover from identity theft, so take extra precaution and frequently check your bank accounts, credit report, and overall identity. 

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