Protect Your Data—and Your Dollars
Over the past few years, massive data breaches have become almost commonplace. Leaks put the personal information of billions of people around the world into cybercriminal hands—including email addresses, usernames, passwords, full names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, account numbers and even medical information.
This data can be used against you: Identity thieves can use your information to drain your bank accounts or apply for new credit cards or mortgages in your name.
Perpetrators can also assume your identity in another location to defraud you, such as using your Social Security number for employment, to get medical treatment on your health insurance or to file fraudulent tax returns.
How to Protect Yourself
With so much data out in the open—and the potential for it to be used fraudulently—knowing how to guard your personal information is the first line of defense. Control what you can and monitor your accounts so that any new data breaches may have less of an impact on your life and finances.
Use strong passwords and change them often.
Don't use the same usernames and password for multiple sites, as a data breach for one could compromise your other accounts. In particular, make sure you use different passwords for online financial sites than you use for social media.
Be Wary of Wi-Fi.
Activate password protection for home Wi-Fi networks. Avoid logging in to personal accounts or making transactions through public Wi-Fi, especially if the website you're accessing doesn't include encrypted technology (look for addresses that start with https:// rather than http://).
Know what you're clicking on (emails, websites, ads, pop-ups).
Look for requests to act urgently, threats of consequences, duplication of a legitimate company's logo, bad grammar and misspelled words. If you're unsure if an email is legitimate, type in the web address manually instead of clicking on a link.
Keep important documents safe.
Store your Social Security card and statements, birth certificates, tax returns, financial records, loan agreements and insurance documents in a home safe or locked file cabinet.
Shred documents that contain personal information.
Safely discard monthly bills, bank statements and correspondence, paycheck stubs and direct deposit receipts, pre-approved credit card offers.
Check mail daily.
Stop delivery if you will be away for an extended period of time. Check USPS.com to see if Informed Delivery, a digital preview of your mail, is available in your area.
Keep track of your wallet or purse.
Consider what you really need to carry: driver's license, debit or credit cards, work identification, gym membership, health insurance card (and not your Social Security card).
On Your Phone
Don't give out personal or financial information during an unsolicited call.
If the caller claims to be from a company and you're unsure, hang up and call the company's publicly available number directly. Never reply to text messages asking for personal information.
Lock your phone; choose a strong passcode.
Consider using biometric identification features such as fingerprint or face recognition scans. Use remote wipe software to protect your information in case of theft.
What to Do If Your Information Is Exposed or If You Suspect Identity Theft
Act fast. Hackers and identity thieves obtain your data before you even know it's missing.
Contact financial institutions
Close fraudulent accounts
Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
File a report at IdentityTheft.gov
Order copies of credit reports through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or through the major credit bureaus
Capture all communications in writing
Additional Identity Theft Resources
Online, offline and on your phone—get tips to safeguard your personal data.
Download our security checklist.
Risk Based Security, 2020 Midyear QuickView Data Breach Report, data as of June 30, 2020.
COVID-19’s Impact on Online Government Services, Transunion, August 2020.
Online Security Survey, Google/Harris Poll, October 2019.
FBI 2019 Internet Crime Report.
Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, IBM Security and Ponemon Institute LLC, July 2020.
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2019.
Investment return and principal value of security investments will fluctuate. The value at the time of redemption may be more or less than the original cost. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.