Distance Learning: Advice for Data Breach Victims

Being a distance learning student is not a piece of cake because you should provide different kinds of personal information to platforms, sites, and professors. You should be careful while you are doing that to avoid a data breach. However, there are some situations you cannot foresee.

So let’s imagine you just received a letter in the mail or an email from some organization or company stating that your data has been involved in a data breach. They usually offer some kind of apology along with an explanation of the basics of what occurred, but they can’t promise you that everything will be OK because oftentimes, they don’t know where your data has gone to.

Some breach apology letters advise you to monitor your credit record, but sometimes no sound advice is offered at all. The words “we’re sorry” are of little consolation when your data is circulating on the virtual black market, being bought and sold by cybercriminals.

Change Your Passwords Immediately

One of the first things you should do after a data breach notification is to change your password for the affected accounts. In this case, PaperHelp reminds us that most learning platforms that suffer a data breach will make this mandatory, but some may not. Even if a college IT department affected by the breach says that your password was not affected, it is probably a good idea to choose a new strong password anyway.

If the data breach affected your email provider, you will not only want to change your email password, but you will also want to change the passwords of any accounts that you have ever registered with using that email address because if someone broke into your email account, they may have tried to compromise your other accounts by using the password reset via email option on those accounts.

Contact Your Bank / Credit Card Company (for the affected cards)

Your bank needs to know about the data breach as soon as you know. They will likely place a fraud alert on your accounts and they may want to issue you new cards to replace the affected ones.

Take Advantage of any Free Identity Theft Prevention Service

It seems to be a trend that sites affected by a data breach often offer victims 12 months of identity theft protection from companies. They don’t have to offer it, but many do as a way to try to make things right. If they don’t offer this service in their apology letter, contact them and request that they provide it for free. The squeaky wheel often gets grease.

Consider Filing a Fraud Victim Statement / Extended Fraud Alert with the 3 Major Credit Bureaus

A fraud alert filed with the 3 major credit bureaus helps post a ‘red flag’ in your credit file that will hopefully be seen by the lender who the identity thief is trying to get credit using your stolen personal information. There is always a chance that the lender might miss or ignore this fraud note, but at least it serves as a warning which might make them think twice before giving the imposter an account in your name.

Consider Requesting a Security Freeze on Your Credit Reporting

Criminals who obtain personal information often do so to obtain lines of credit and loans in your name.

If your Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as your Social Security Number, birthdate, home address, etc, were compromised, then you will want to contact the major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit reporting. You may also want to consider requesting a security freeze.

Security Freezes have pros and cons which you should be aware of before you request one.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Accounts

After a data breach, especially one involving your financial institution, you will want to keep a close eye out for suspicious activity by reviewing your day-to-day transactions regularly. If your bank offers account alert notifications (by text or email) for transactions over a certain amount or when funds in your account dip below a set amount, you should consider enabling them so that you will be notified if someone is attempting to drain your account. Report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately. Keep in mind that criminals can get your data from sites where you buy learning materials such as books.