Editor's Note: This article was created by Aura in partnership with DomesticShelters.org to help educate domestic violence victims, survivors and professionals about how to stay safe when using technology. DomesticShelters.org only partners with companies creating products we've vetted.
Data breaches happen every day, and put your personal information at risk. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, in 2021 the overall number of data compromises was up more than 68 percent compared to 2020, with 1,862 data compromises occurring last year.
For victims and survivors of domestic violence, the consequences of a data breach are even more severe. If a hacker can access and abuse your personally identifiable information (PII), then it is also possible, perhaps even likely, that an abuser could do the same.
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That’s why intelligent safety company Aura is here to share tips for what to do to protect yourself if you find out that your information has been compromised in a data breach.
7 Tips to Manage a Data Breach
1. Freeze and Monitor Your Credit
It’s not uncommon for an abuser to access his or her victim’s credit—whether to monitor reports for insights on financial or other recent activity or to open new lines of credit on the victim’s behalf as a control or power tactic.
The most impactful action that you can take to protect yourself from these tactics, as well as to help prevent identity theft, is to freeze your credit file with the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Freezing and unfreezing your credit is free and should only take 15—20 minutes. Freezing your credit file will make it much more difficult for someone to open credit in your name, even if they’ve stolen your Social Security number.
Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. There are both free and paid options for credit monitoring, but for the most coverage and best protection, you’ll want to identify a service that monitors all three credit bureaus and sends you timely alerts regarding activity in your file.
2. Change Your Passwords
Abusive partners are likely to track your passwords across various accounts as a way to maintain control and monitor your activity. Before or after leaving an abuser, it’s critical to change your passwords from those a partner may know or easily guess to complex passphrases that even the most sophisticated online criminals would struggle to identify.
Using weak or recycled passwords and relying on two factor authentication to keep your important accounts protected won’t cut it anymore. With the advent of sim swapping, using two factor authentication to receive verification codes via text is no longer a reliable method of keeping your information secure.
Where you can, update your passwords so that they consist of a random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, or a passphrase consisting of several words rather than one. Make sure to choose a passphrase that an abuser wouldn’t know or guess. Use a password manager to store and remember them. Transitioning to a password manager can seem like a hassle, but once you’ve worked it into your routine, you’ll forget that you were ever concerned in the first place. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
Continue to set up two factor authentication for your accounts and, when possible, opt to use an authentication app over text verification codes, especially if an abuser has access to your phone and texts.
3. Consider Your Children May Have Been Breached, Too
Children under the age of 18 are often the target of child identity theft, because their credit score is completely unmarked. An abuser—especially if a partner—is likely to have personal information for your children, like their date of birth or social security number, and could use this information to open new lines of credit on your child’s behalf.
Consider locking your child’s credit to protect their social security numbers, and if it’s been breached, contact authorities.
Additionally, posting information about your children on social media, even if it's just their full names and birthdays, can be just as dangerous as posting your own, putting them at potential risk of identity theft or other forms of fraud.
4. Check Your Financial and Medical Statements
Your financial and medical statements are another place you may find signs of identity theft or other forms of fraud. Check your monthly bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity, like transactions you don’t recognize or login attempts.
If an abuser has previously shared financial accounts or had access to your financial and medical records, make sure to contact your bank and credit card companies and change any associated passwords and login info that could be compromised. You should also notify these companies of your abuser specifically, asking that they remove and/or prevent that individual’s access to your accounts, despite potentially being listed as a spouse or legal partner.
5. Tighten Your Social Media Privacy Settings
Most of us don’t think twice about sharing details of our personal lives on our social media profiles. But if a hacker or abuser wants to collect or verify information about you, social media is likely to be their first stop.
To help prevent identity theft, it’s worthwhile to consider what information you’re revealing about yourself and your family, as well as whoas unlikely as it may seem—could be in the audience each time you post on social media. For platforms like Facebook, which has variable visibility settings for posts that you make to your profile, spend some time to see what posts you’ve made that are publicly visible, and what someone might be able to learn about you from reading them. Facebook, for example, has a "view as” option that allows you to see how your profile appears to the public.
Abusers can also use social media platforms as a channel for harassment and bullying, so consider closing old accounts and opening new ones with a different password, tighter privacy and security settings or even adopting a new username or alias. Don’t share any personal information with “friends” or followers virtually.
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6. Don’t Ignore Any Suspicious Activity
When it comes to protecting against the vast array of digital threats and tactics used by hackers as well as by tech-savvy abusers, time is of the essence. The faster you become aware of suspicious activity, the faster you can act, and the less damage can be done to your safety, independence, credit, bank account or your reputation. Automatic credit monitoring delivers fast alerts and offers you the ability to respond quickly in order to prevent fraud, identity theft or other abusive control and manipulation tactics.
7. Explore Intelligent Safety Solutions That Support Your Safety Online
We understand how daunting it can be to take control of your digital life, especially when attempting to protect yourself from a potential abuser or controlling partner. Intelligent safety tools like Aura offer easy-to-use, all-in-one digital security protection to keep you and your family’s personal information, devices and finances safe from online threats and ill-intentioned individuals. Aura combines everything you need to proactively control your digital lives– credit monitoring, lost wallet recovery, antivirus, VPN, multi-device protection and monitors your financial transactions, bank accounts, SSN, the dark web, home and title use and criminal and court records to keep your finances and your identity safe and secure. And in the event of an issue, Aura’s U.S.-based customer service team is available to help you resolve problems 24/7.
Aura has created a special offer for DomesticShelters.org: access a free two-week trial of Aura's all-in-one intelligent digital security solution, and if you like it, purchase a subscription at 40 percent off. Use these links to try the Individual Plan, Couples’ Plan or the Family Plan with this special offer. DomesticShelters.org does not receive any compensation for purchases through this offer.
Photo by Yan Krukov
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