Protect Yourself From Data Breaches

Pinnacle Personnel Services LLC  |  Debbie Hatch

I was a victim in both of the past Office of Personnel Management data breaches, as well as the July 2018 Equifax one.  The latest banking breach, at Capital One just a few weeks ago, exposed the records of almost 106 million people.

In 2016 Yahoo exposed almost 500 million records. My Fitness Pal, 150 million.  2018 saw breaches at Orbitz, Google, T-Mobile and Facebook.  According to an online survey by Javelin Strategy, over 83 million Americans had been impacted by identity theft within a six year period!

There’s no question.  We’re all vulnerable.

Javeline Strategy Information

Short of hiding our money and data under the mattress, what can we do to be proactive in protecting ourselves?

  • I now have my credit frozen.
  • I receive text notifications ANY time my credit card is used for any amount.
  • All of my accounts have double authentication.
  • I have three email addresses and use one ONLY for my financial accounts.


To protect yourself here are six tips you might want to consider.

Create Separate and Strong Passwords

Granted, it’s not convenient to have dozens of different passwords to keep track of!  It is very smart though.  Prior to this past year, I had three or four passwords I would use for everything.  That meant if someone figured out one password, they could access several of my on line accounts.  Now I have a different password for everything.  They’re not words or anything specific to me (e.g. birthday, anniversary, kids’ names).

PS.  Please stop answering those “who was your second grade teacher” or “where did your family name come from” questionnaires on social media!  Those can be clues to someone trying to ascertain your passwords or security questions.

Keep Software up to Date

Tech companies are constantly monitoring their software for weak spots or security breaches and often release updates to help fix those issues. Set up your devices for automatic updates.

Check Web Addresses

Any time you’re providing financial information, such as credit card numbers, double-check the web address first.  It should begin with “https” and display a padlock sign, meaning you are securely transmitting information.

Never click on suspicious links

If you receive an email asking you to verify personal information, demanding money, promising a refund, or threatening to suspend your account, visit the company’s website directly (type it into your browser – don’t click on the hyperlink).   In case you don’t know, if you hover over a hyperlink, you can view the address where the link will (factually) take you.  When in doubt, take a minute to call customer service at the company and ask about the legitimacy of the message you’ve received.

Clearly this is NOT from Wells Fargo

Be Leery of Unsecured Public WIFI

If you’re using a public network, your information is more vulnerable.  Whatever you’re wanting to do online can wait until you have access to a secure network.  It’s also a very good idea to create a new password for your at home WIFI vs sticking with the one that was set (by the technician or your router) for you.  Be smart.  Don’t set your password as your address, last name, or something anyone could easily figure out.

Rely on two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security and helps discourage cybercrime.  You log into online counts as you normally would but before the site is accessed, you receive a text message or email with an additional security question or one time code.  Without the second authentication, you can’t access your account and neither can anyone else.


Are these steps going to protect you in every situation?  Absolutely not but I want to do as much as I can to make it more difficult for unscrupulous individuals to access my data.  My tagline for everything from online security to financial planning to securing data is:

What I can.

When I can.

With what’s available at the time.


As always, I’d love your thoughts and suggestions.  What you’re doing, and consider simple, may be just the thing to help someone else.  Let me know.


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