NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Cybercrime is on the rise. According to the results of new Gallup poll, 11% of American adults report that either they or another household member was the victim of a computer or Internet crime in the past year, up from the 6% to 8% levels found in the previous seven years.
The survey, conducted in the end of October, couldn’t be more timely. In the past week, McDonald’s, Walgreens and Gawker Media experienced data breaches, leaving some particularly savvy cybercriminals with plenty of e-mail addresses, passwords and additional contact information to exploit in time for the holidays.
What can you do if your information has been compromised? MainStreet offers a few tips.
Be on the lookout for scam e-mails. McDonald’s (Stock Quote: MCD) issued a warning to consumers to be of the lookout for any e-mails bearing its logo, as they may actually be phishing schemes. This popular type of scam uses legitimate businesses as a front to get people to cough up personal information or download viruses onto their computers. While many of these schemes can be hard to identify, especially if you’ve signed up to receive e-mails from the business in question, retailers generally do not ask you to provide credit card information, Social Security numbers or other personal information via e-mail. If you receive such a message asking for information, do not click on any links and contact the retailer directly to verify the request for your details.
Change your passwords. Most people have the foresight to change the password on an account that has been compromised. However, they often to forget to change the password on an account that was not directly affected by the data breach. This can be problematic when the same password was used for other accounts. Gawker, for example, advised users to change the passwords on their Twitter accounts if they mirrored those that were obtained by the hackers responsible for the recent breach of its databases. You can check Gawker’s note to readers for more information on how to handle the Gawker breach specifically.
File a fraud alert. In the event that a data breach provided a cybercriminal with your credit card or debit card information (something that, luckily, all three weekend security breaches did not involve), you should contact your card issuer immediately to set up a fraud alert, which will require them to contact you in the event on any suspicious activity on the account. You can also set up a fraud alert with the three credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. This alert will stay active for 90 days and will ensure that you be contacted directly for verification should someone try to open a new account in your name.