Recently, a group of cyber hackers from Russia accessed personal data from nearly 120 million people.  While it didn’t affect any services provided by Great Plains Communications, we wanted to provide our customers with some tips to keep yourself safe.

1. Change Your Password Once a Month or Even Every Few Weeks: This is a big one.  When you change your passwords once a month, even if a hacker does get access to your account, it won’t be for long.  If you change your password, you make the account access information that they collected obsolete.  Often when data is stolen, it is then sold to another party, which means that your breached account may not be accessed for a few weeks.  So even if you don’t see any activity right away, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take precautions.

2. Take Data Breaches Seriously: If you do get a notice from a company that you do business with or have made a purchase from, it’s important to change your password right away and take any other steps that they recommend. Don’t delay because the longer you wait, the longer you are exposed.

3. Check your credit score, credit limits, and bank accounts regularly: Credit Karma is a great tool for monitoring your credit score and credit card balances in one place.  You can link your online access for your credit cards to Credit Karma and see real-time account balances in an easy-to-read dashboard so that you will be able to spot suspicious transactions immediately.

4. Understand that online and brick-and-mortar shopping are equally safe: Some consumers assume that if they only shop in brick-and-mortar stores, then they are safer than those who shop online.  However, large scale hacks, such as the Target breach of last year, saw data leaks from both online and in-store purchases.  Even if you only use your debit or credit card in person, make sure to follow the advice above.

5. Be weary of pop-ups claiming to be an extra security measure:  If you land on a website and a pop-up appears that asks for confidential information, be cautious.  Asking you to sign in with your Facebook or email account with a new password is OK.  If the pop-up doesn’t look “right” or asks for your current email password then back out of the website using your browser arrows immediately. NEVER click on a pop-up that you don’t trust!

In the end, most consumers will never experience any negative consequences from a security breach.  However, it is important to decrease your risk by following the steps above and always err on the side of caution.  Do you have more tips?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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