RENO, Nev. (Mynews4.com & KRNV) -- The latest reports estimate that about 100 million people have been affected by the Target and Neimann Marcus data breaches. An identity theft expert spoke about how you can protect yourself both before and after a breach.
Eva Velasquez is the President and CEO of the national non-profit group Identity Theft Resource Center. She said that breaches are a reality in today's world. "Breaches are a part of the world that we live in."
The Identity Theft Resource Center has been tracking data breaches since 2005. Last year, there were more than 600 breaches, affecting about 58 million people. Velasquez says if the hackers get just your credit card number, canceling the card should be enough.
But if your social security number or birth date was compromised, you may need to contact the credit bureaus. "It's never a bad idea (to contact the credit bureaus), check your credit and make sure that everything is in order, but isn't necessarily the most proactive step you can take after a data breach."
She says the first step is contacting your bank, then you can call in an expert for advice. ITRC offers a toll-free hotline. They also offer tips to help you prevent becoming a victim of a data breach, or identity theft.
"The best rule of thumb is treat your personal identifying information like you would any other valuable," Velasquez said.
ITRC uses the acronym "shred":
- Strengthen your passwords, and make sure you're not using the same one for every site.
- Handle your information with care.
- Read credit reports annually.
- Empty your purse, don't carry sensitive information.
- Discuss these tips with friends and family to spread the word.
Velasquez also says you should check out retailers' privacy policies, but even if a store like Target has security locked down, breaches can still happen. "They have to be right 100% of the time. The hackers only have to be right once."
For more information and resources, you can visit the Identity Theft Resource Center's website
, or call them at (888) 400-5530. All of their services are free.