Even the most careful individuals and companies can expect to become the victim of a cyberattack at some point. In January 2022, the Allianz Risk Barometer identified “cyber perils” as one of the top issues of concern for companies globally. It’s no wonder why: According to TechJury, cyber hackers attack some 30,000 websites worldwide each day, and every 39 seconds, a new attack occurs somewhere on the web.

If you’ve ever experienced a data compromise involving your personal information, you may already understand the importance of acting quickly to try to mitigate any potential financial loss and prevent any problems related to identity theft. While business owners may want to download the Federal Trade Commission’s Data Breach Response: A Guide for Business and keep it handy, individuals can follow these steps in the unfortunate event of a data breach:

#1 Gather the facts as quickly as possible.

Start by confirming whether the threat is real since even data-breach notification emails can be fake. If the data breach is legitimate and widespread, you’ll likely hear about it from reputable news sources, and may receive an offer to help from the affected company. Do your best to determine what information the hackers may have stolen, and then visit identitytheft.gov to determine the next steps.

#2 Change your passwords and enable two-factor authentication, where possible.

While it may seem inconvenient to do so, adding that extra step to verify your account may help prevent criminals from accessing your accounts easily.

#3 Initiate a fraud alert.

Although there are three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – you only need to request a fraud alert with one, and it will notify the others.

#4 If the compromised company offers free credit monitoring, sign up.

Otherwise, you can check your credit report for free once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. When checking your report, look for new accounts, inquiries, or new personal information. You should also monitor any bank, credit card, or other financial accounts and set up alert features if they are available.

#5 Freeze your credit file.

The three major credit bureaus allow you to place a security freeze on your account, and this prevents potential lenders from accessing your credit report, making it harder for criminals to purchase big-ticket items using your credit standing. Just remember to temporarily unfreeze your account if you need to make a major purchase or apply for a new credit card.

#6 Notify the IRS if you are a victim of tax-related identity theft.

As this year’s tax season winds to a close, you may discover that you are unable to e-file your return because of a duplicate Social Security number, or that someone else filed a return in your name without your knowledge. If so, start by filing Form 14039, informing the IRS that you are a victim of identity theft. Then, continue to file your tax return, if you haven’t already done so, and attach the form to your return. The IRS provides additional guidance on specific actions to take depending on your situation.

How Savant Protects Client Data

At Savant Wealth Management, our clients’ information security is paramount. Our Data Security and Identity Theft Resources sheet explains our role in protecting client data and provides a list of further resources for you to learn about cybersecurity. While none of us can predict whether our personal information will ever be compromised, it never hurts to plan ahead. Acting quickly may help prevent further loss and assist authorities in their investigations.

About Savant Wealth Management

Savant Wealth Management is a leading independent, nationally recognized, fee-only firm serving clients for over 30 years. As a trusted advisor, Savant Wealth Management offers investment management, financial planning, retirement plan and family office services to financially established individuals and institutions. Savant also offers corporate accounting, tax preparation, payroll and consulting through its affiliate, Savant Tax & Consulting.

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