- Approximately 100 million Quora users might have had their account information compromised.
- Last week, Marriott announced that approximately 500 million people who made reservations at Starwood properties since 2014 have had their personal data compromised.
- Although there’s no real way to prevent your personal data from being compromised, there are ways to protect yourself if your data has been hacked.
On Monday, Dec. 3, popular online Q&A platform Quora announced that user data had been compromised “as a result of unauthorized access to one of our systems by a malicious third party.” The data breach could have affected approximately 100 million site users, according to Quora’s release. Compromised information could include names, email addresses, passwords, data from linked networks, public content and actions on the site, and nonpublic content and actions, including answer requests and direct messages.
The Quora data breach comes on the heels of another massive data breach that compromised the personal information of up to 500 million guests who made a reservation at a Marriott Starwood property from 2014 on, the company disclosed last week.
“For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date and communication preferences,” the official release for the Marriott data breach stated. “For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates.”
The information compromised during the breach could potentially be used to steal your identity and open credit cards, loans or bank accounts in your name, so you’ll want to know what you can do now to protect your identity.
Can You Realistically Prevent Your Data From Being Hacked?
Although there are steps you can take to protect your identity after a data breach, there’s not much you can really do to prevent it from being stolen in the first place given how our modern world operates.
“Sadly, I think that the only way to completely avoid the possibility of personal information being stolen is to live the life of a monk — 100 years ago,” said Morris Armstrong, a financial planner and licensed enrolled agent. “If you look at the recent Marriott data breach, the typical guest simply followed normal registration procedures and provided requested documentation. The hotels ask for a credit card to cover incidentals, and I cannot imagine what would happen if you said no.”
Think You’ve Been Hacked? Here’s What to Do Now
If you think you might have been affected by the Quora or Marriott data breaches, take these steps to protect yourself and your identity:
1. Review all bank and credit card statements.
Be on the lookout for anything that looks fishy, including withdrawals you didn’t make or charges at places you’ve never shopped.
2. Monitor your credit score for any changes.
“Many credit cards offer credit scoring services — watch these, because a drop in your score could indicate accounts being opened that you do not know about,” said Armstrong.
3. Sign up for credit freezes with the main bureaus.
Freeze your credit with Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. “When you do this, no accounts can be opened without your indicating a PIN or something unique,” said Armstrong.
4. Use strong passwords, and change them periodically for any online accounts.
It’s also a good idea to use a different password for every site.
5. Consider reducing social media presence.
“Thieves can use information gleaned from your social media to hack online accounts,” said Armstrong. “Think about those secret questions that are asked.” For example, if you’re constantly posting about your pet dog Tucker, hackers can use this information to get past security questions or guess passwords.
What the Recent Data Breaches Really Mean for Consumers
“Many people worry that the [Marriott] hack is all about someone using your credit card, and that is likely the least of the possible issues,” said Armstrong. “The real concern is about someone creating a shadow you and incurring new liabilities that you do not know about, filing a tax return in your name and claiming a large refund, and possibly engaging in criminal activity under your name. While these can be cleared up eventually, they may require more time and money than you realize. So, the gist is that since ID theft tends to occur through no fault of your own, the best that you can you do is be proactive in monitoring your financial life, and utilizing tools which are either free or low-cost.”
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