A ring of Russian hackers have allegedly stolen more than a billion online user names and passwords, including more than 500 million email addresses. They are believed to be using that data to spam Internet users.
It's unclear which websites the Russian hackers hit, but with so much stolen data, there's a chance you may have been affected. If you think you are a victim of this attack here are steps you can take:
- Change your passwords: Go to your most important online accounts (your email, bank, credit card, etc.) and change the passwords. Make sure your password consists of lower and uppercase letters, several numbers and no words that can be found in the dictionary. Something like "L4T1m3esrR0cks" would work. Also use different passwords for different accounts.
- Monitor your debit and credit card activity: Make sure all the purchases listed are ones you made. If they aren't, you might be a victim of identity theft.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft:
- Create an identity theft report: You can head to the Federal Trade Commission's website to create an Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that affidavit to also file a police report.
- Freeze your credit report: Notify the three credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on your credit report to block anyone, including yourself, from getting more credit using your identity. You'll still be able to use your credit cards, but you won't be able to get new ones while the freeze is in effect. To do this, head to the websites of Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You should know that you will be charged a fee of up to $5 if you are not a victim of identity theft.
- Get a copy of your credit report: After freezing your credit report, ask the three credit reporting agencies for a copy of it. You should read the reports to make sure you recognize all of the transactions and accounts listed.
- Dispute errors: If you find erroneous transactions or accounts, you will have to contact the fraud departments of the credit reporting agencies as well as the businesses involved explaining the error and your situation.
For more detailed information on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, here's a helpful guide from the FTC.
Follow me on Twitter at: @sal19