It’s getting more and more difficult to find someone who has never been hit by a data breach. Customers of stores and restaurants . . . Government workers . . . Workers whose companies’ records have been stolen . . . People with health insurance . . . Now consumers who’ve done business with a major email and Internet company.
Personal information involving 500 million Yahoo accounts, including accounts with Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Fantasy Sports, was stolen back in 2014 and we’re just now learning about it. Yahoo’s announcement Thursday also said the theft also may have included 113 million Flickr accounts.
The stolen information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and in many cases, security questions and the answers people gave, Yahoo said.
So here are steps you should consider taking, ASAP:
1. Assume that anything that was in your Yahoo email account could be in the hands of bad guys, including passwords to other web sites and accounts.
2. Make sure all of your passwords on all of your accounts — especially on any other email account or financial account — are solid and are not the same one you used on any of your Yahoo accounts.
3. If you used the same “secret questions” on your Yahoo account and any other account that you have, start changing them. Favourite movie of all time? Pet’s name? Middle name of your youngest sibling? Change them all.
And on that note, don’t use secret questions that other people know the answers to. There are lots of people who know your high school mascot. It’s probably easy to figure out from your Facebook page or among anyone you knew in high school. Don’t use the name of the street you lived on as a child. Or your pet’s name. Tonnes of people know the name of your dog, cat or guinea pig.
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4. Further, when you’re asked by a bank or a credit card company or any entity to provide something like your mother’s maiden name, don’t provide the true answer. Your mother’s maiden name is easy to find. When I’m asked for my mother’s maiden name, I give them a fabricated last name. The trick is, you gotta remember it since it’s not true.
5. Watch out for suspicious emails or phone calls that try to trick you into disclosing personal information, based on already having some information about you that may have been extracted from your Yahoo account.
With a data breach of this scale, many of us will receive emails and calls that claim to be from Yahoo and asking us to click on links or fill out forms or provide even more personal information.
If anyone contacts you by email or phone and says he’s from Yahoo or law enforcement and is calling about this breach, hang up. If you don’t hang up for some reason, then do not provide any information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, bank account information, etc.
6. Remember that stores, banks, universities and investigators will never contact you out of sky blue and ask for personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc. Never. Ever. And they’ll never contact you and ask you to change your password by clicking on an unknown link. Don’t click on links or reply with any information. Never. Ever Web Job Posting.
7. This same warning applies to anyone who calls you and claims to be from Microsoft or Apple support and says you have a problem with your computer and the caller needs access to your computer to fix it. Just don’t. Ever. Just hang up without saying bye.
8. Be more cautious about anything you post on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. You can provide thieves with a lot of information without meaning to. This is especially troubling if you post the name of your best friend and photos of your dog online, and then use that information as the answers for security questions for bank accounts.
And remember that even if your social media accounts are accessible only to friends or family, the information is still on some company’s database and can be accessed or sold.