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Safe Banking

Help! My personal information has been compromised!

November 2, 2022
min read

Your personal information has been compromised, now what? Follow these steps for damage control and tips to avoid identity theft and financial complications in the future.

Whether it’s the result of a scam, compromised website, or identity theft, it can be hard to know what to do or how to handle it.

If your online account is compromised, you must act quickly to protect yourself. This blog will outline keeping your information safe to prevent cyber-attacks and what to do if your accounts are compromised. The best offence is a good defense, so let’s start there.

Protect your Online Accounts and Personal Information

Set up 2 Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication helps protect your online accounts from hackers by adding an extra layer of security when logging on from an unrecognized device.

Instead of only entering a password to log in, you will also enter a code which is sent via text message to your mobile phone or to an email address.

This verification helps make sure that you, and only you, can access your account. For additional security, you have the option to enable two-factor authentication every time you log in, regardless of whether you have used the device in the past or not.

Create Strong & Secure Passwords

One of the most important things you can do to protect your accounts is to use a secure password. Too often, people choose a password such as “12345”, “QWERTY” or their last name, which puts them at risk of hacking. A strong password will help you keep your accounts safe, especially when you’re online shopping.

Pick a Sentence

A strong password doesn’t have to be difficult to remember! Create a password using a sentence you are likely to remember, such as the date of an important life event, the name of a former neighbour, or the name of your favourite book.

The key is to choose a sentence that is significant to you but something most people are unlikely to guess. For added security, use numbers or symbols in place of letters and some capital letters.

Here’s an example: imagine your favourite book is Jane Eyre. The following would be a secure password: Fav0ur!t3B00k!$Jan33yr3. You will notice that zeroes were used in place of “o”, threes in place of “e” and exclamation points in place of “i”. Additionally, each word is capitalized.

Avoid using things like your spouse’s name, birthday or address as your password, as this information is easily discoverable by hackers.

Keep your Password Safe

Now that you’ve picked a strong password, you need to keep it safe. Avoid writing it down on paper next to your computer or keeping it in your wallet. This makes you vulnerable to hackers if your wallet is stolen or you misplace the page containing your passwords.

Instead, consider a password manager. Password managers encrypt your data, helping to keep it secure. They also allow you to store the login information for all your online accounts. Remember, you shouldn’t use the same password for all your accounts.

Change your Password Regularly

For added security, change your password every three months. Also, try setting a recurring calendar reminder, so you don’t forget. When you change your passwords, update your password manager if you use one to keep track of your online account credentials.

What to do if Your Personal Information is compromised

Sometimes your personal information can be accidentally disclosed or deliberately stolen even though you took precautionary steps to keep that information safe. You will need to act quickly if you know (or even suspect) that your personal information has been compromised.

Contact the Service Provider as Soon as Possible

Regardless of whether your compromised account is your credit card, email, or website login, the first step is to reach out to the service provider. If you report that your credit card has been compromised, you won’t be responsible for fraudulent charges, and your credit card provider will cancel your current card and send you a new one with a different number.

If your bank accounts have been compromised, your financial institution can “flag” your account and help you through the situation.

Banks and credit unions can help you if your accounts are compromised. If your wallet is stolen, they can cancel the cheques you had in your wallet. If you contact your financial institution, you can cancel your ATM card, get a new online banking password, and employees will know to monitor your account.

If your email address has been compromised, reach out to your service provider using an alternative email address. With a compromised email address, any service you use that email address for is at risk of compromise as hackers can use the “forgot password” button to reset passwords.

With this in mind, once you’ve recovered your account, change every single password (refer to the secure password tips above) for every website and service that uses your email address.

Notify Provincial Agencies

If your driver’s license or other government-issued identification has been stolen, contact the agency that issued the identification. Follow their procedures to cancel the identification and get a replacement, and ensure the agency flags your file as well.

Stay Alert

Continue to monitor all of your accounts, not just the one(s) that were compromised, to ensure that they are secure. Just because you’ve notified who you needed to about your compromised personal information doesn’t mean you should rely solely on them to protect you.

Consistently monitor your accounts, use caution when using online banking and opening emails, and take action quickly if you sense something is wrong.

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