Data Breach Basics

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What is a data breach?

A data breach happens when information has been viewed, stolen, or used by a person without appropriate authorization. Some data breaches can create a serious personal and financial risk for consumers and businesses.

How does a data breach happen?

A data breach can be caused by a number of reasons, including criminal activity, accidents, and computer failures. For example, a data breach can be caused by lost or stolen computers or other electronic devices, or by hackers who bypass a company's security measures.

What steps do I need to take after a data breach?

A company that has suffered a data breach involving personal information may have a duty to notify you about the incident and provide steps that you should take in light of the breach. Depending on the type of personal information involved in the data breach, you may want to contact us to take protective measures such as placing a fraud alert message or a security freeze on your credit file. You may also want to contact your financial institutions to ensure that your financial information is secure.

Where can I find out more about identity theft and protecting my identity?

Check out the Federal Trade Commission's website for identity theft articles and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website for identity theft FAQs.

For practical tips to help you avoid online scammers, hackers, and identity thieves, read the Federal Trade Commission's computer security articles. gives practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against phishing and Internet fraud, how to secure your computer, and how to protect your personal information.