It seems like every few months, there is a news report about a security breach that has the potential to leave masses of people susceptible to identity theft and credit fraud - Most notably in recent times is the Equifax breach estimated to affect over 143 million people (that's almost 1/2 of the population of the US!)
That being said and in the event that another breach occurs in the future, there are some key things you need to do to minimize the impact and protect yourself from potential credit fraud and identity theft.
1. Check your credit
You want to make sure everything on your credit report is as expected. You are entitled to a free report from all 3 credit bureaus each year via annualcreditreport.com or you can choose to pay for one.
The bottom line is that you need to check your credit to make sure nothing strange is going on there.
2. Get credit monitoring in place or consider a credit freeze
Just because a breach has happened does not mean the identity theft or credit fraud will happen right away. It could take months or years for you to potentially be affected.
Usually, when a company has been impacted by a security breach e.g. Equifax, they typically offer free credit monitoring of some sort for a period of time BUT again there are several other companies that can do this for you too if you don't want to go with the company that has caused all the trouble in the first place (I don't blame you) and my fav is MyFico.
Having your credit monitored will alert you when you lines of credit are being applied for or added to your account - this way you'll know exactly what's going on with your credit. However, If you will not actively be applying for any lines of credit in the foreseeable future, you can consider putting a freeze on your credit.
A credit freeze is also known as a security freeze and it allows you to restrict access to your credit report - this means lenders will not be able to access your credit to approve any unauthorized lines of credit until you remove the freeze.
3. Change any online passwords and pins associated with your financial information
It's a good idea to change any passwords or pins you have associated to your personal and financial information online.
Sometimes it's hard to determine exactly what information was breached and so it's better to take all precautions including changing your passwords.
Again, if your personal and financial information happens to be part of a security breach, don't panic. It's annoying yes, but if you take these 3 actions you'll be good - better safe than sorry.