Protect Yourself When Hackers Strike
Sony Corp. announced April 26 that its online PlayStation Network had been hacked and millions of customers' personal data and credit card information may have been stolen. However, Sony knew about the attack about a week before it alerted customers about the breach.
A week is an eon for an identity thief, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. And Sony's recommendation that customers review their account statements and check their credit reports isn't enough, he says. PlayStation Network members -- or anyone whose personal information has been stolen -- need to do more to protect themselves and limit the damage. Here are Ulzheimer's tips:
Change online account passwords. Many of us use the same password and username for all our online accounts. So if your login credentials for the Sony PlayStation Network are the same as those for your bank account, e-mail, Facebook or other online services, change your passwords now. And change the answers to your security questions, too.
Initiate a credit freeze. Sony suggested that PlayStation Network users place fraud alerts on their credit reports, Ulzheimer says. But that doesn’t stop someone from using their credit cards and doesn't guarantee that new accounts won't be issued in their names. He suggests that PlayStation Network members cancel the credit card they used on their gaming system and freeze their credit records so identity thieves can't take out new credit in their names. See Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze for more information.
Keep monitoring your accounts. Just because you haven't seen any suspicious activity on your accounts yet, doesn't mean you're safe. Ulzheimer says ID thieves may sit on stolen data for months or even years after a security breach -- to give people time to let their guard down.
For more ways to protect yourself, see How to Avoid Identity Theft.