What you should do if you’ve been a victim of a data breach or identity theft

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2020 was a year most of us won’t soon forget. While many of us were working and going to school at home, cybercriminals were busy breaking into our accounts. More than 150 million people had their personal information exposed last year, including passwords, phone numbers, and financial data. Consumer Reports is here to help, revealing what you need to do to maintain control of your accounts and protect your personal data from the next breach.

Sometimes companies will contact you to let you know you’ve been the victim of a data breach. But you can also do some digging online yourself to find out if your information has been compromised. The website haveibeenpwned will tell you if it’s your email address, phone number, or password.

If your password was compromised, change it everywhere you used it. It’s a good idea not to reuse passwords. With a password manager, you don’t have to worry about remembering new ones because it does that for you. CR recommends one called ONE-Password, which creates and stores complex, unique passwords for each of your accounts.

And because cybercriminals can use your personal information to try to log in to your accounts, use something called multifactor authentication, which requires a second form of identification to log in. Often it’s a code sent to your phone. But CR recommends using a form that’s more secure than that, like the Google Authenticator app or a hardware security key such as Yubikey.

If your Social Security number or financial information was part of a data breach, CR says that freezing your credit is a smart option because it restricts access to your credit history. But keep in mind that you’ll have to unfreeze it before you apply for a car loan, mortgage, credit card, or anything else that pulls information from your credit history.

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