Having your personal data leaked online is never a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, it can happen regardless, so it makes sense to be prepared. If things progress this far, being quick to act will minimize the damage and secure your best interests as well as privacy.
With this in mind, let’s start with #1:
1. Determine the source of the leak
Finding out where the fire started is not so much about playing detective as it is about considering all the possible causes and ensuring that no similar scenario ever unfolds again.
For starters, go through all your social media profiles and posts to determine whether you’ve inadvertently published some of your personal details somewhere. This may take a while, but it’s well worth the effort. While you’re at it, see if your privacy settings are set correctly.
Then, you should check the apps installed on your phone. Are some of them asking for the kind of permissions you can’t imagine them requiring at any point? For instance, a news app probably doesn’t need access to your files, so maybe some are due for a cleanup.
The idea is to go through all the places that could be the source of the issue. In the process, you are likely to resolve it.
Certain apps may spy on you and your personal data.
2. Keep an eye on your bank statements
If the personal data that was stolen contains your banking info, you should keep a watchful eye on your bank statements and credit reports. You want to be alerted about any suspicious activity as soon as it takes place. In case you detect a suspicious transaction, you should escalate the matter to the proper authorities without delay.
You may also want to consider having the bank issue a new credit or debit card just to be extra safe. Alternatively, you can also sign up for SMS alerts that your bank will send you every time a financial transaction takes place on your account.
3. Freeze your credit
When your sensitive personal details are leaked online, identity theft is a legitimate concern. With this in mind, consider freezing your credit in situations like these. Simply get in touch with one of the credit bureaus and ask them to initiate the procedure. It won’t cost anything and by doing so, you will prevent an unauthorized individual from opening a new credit account in your name.
For obvious reasons, by taking this course of action, you won’t be able to apply for new credit either. Therefore, timing is key. However, if you aren’t planning to take out a loan any time soon, freezing your credit may be a smart move to make.
4. Opt out of data brokers
Data brokers are aggregators that scrape personal data from various different sources. After filtering it and converting it into a presentable format, they may license it to other third parties for financial gain. The reason why they remain legal in the US is that they allow you to opt out at any time.
The issue is that filing a request like this can be a tedious and complicated process, often by design to make it harder. Besides, this does not bar your personal data from resurfacing in the future. The solution is to work with personal data removal services that will fill out these forms on your behalf and save your valuable time by utilizing smart automation.
Do note, however, that data removal services like these do not have the power to alter the contents of your hard drive or your online accounts. Their sole function is to initiate automated takedown requests as per the legal framework outlined by GDPR and similar privacy laws that need to honor them to remain compliant.
If your personal data gets leaked, the last thing you want to do is panic. Instead, remain calm and follow the steps we’ve outlined in this guide.