Given the news of the Capital One data breach affecting over 100 million people in the U.S. (about a third of the U.S. population), here’s your action plan to help protect your identity and personal information.
Determine if you’re at risk. The breach affected holders of and applicants for Capital One credit cards since 2005. If that describes you, then read on. (If not, then you dodged a bullet this time.)
Pull your credit reports from the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. I recommend doing so through AnnualCreditReport.com. (Federal law allows you one free credit report per year from each of these bureaus.) Review reports for false accounts, inaccurate information, and suspicious activity such as unauthorized hard inquiries.
Stay vigilant over bank and credit card activity. Spending awareness becomes even more important when we suspect that our personal information is at risk.
Consider a credit freeze. This is the most proactive step you can take to prevent identity theft. It is a laborious option and will take great attention to detail as you will have to manually lift the freeze prior to using credit (like when applying for a new apartment, opening a new line of credit, possibly applying to a new job). But freezing your credit is effective. Learn more here.
Change your passwords. Change the password to your Capital One account, along with any other site that uses the same password. (You shouldn’t use the same password on multiple sites anyway.) Here is some advice on setting secure passwords.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, here are some resources: