No matter how careful you are, your personal information can end up online and you could become a victim of identity theft. It just happened to about 6,000 people with ties to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
UNC says files with information like names, social security numbers and dates of birth somehow ended up online, by mistake. Administrators say safeguards that are typically in place were accidentally disabled while performing computer maintenance.
It's easy to feel helpless when your bank, your workplace or a company you do business with has some kind of a glitch that puts your personal information into the hands of someone else.
However, it doesn't have to be that way.
The Better Business Bureau suggests most people should put a freeze on their credit. It essentially means no one can open any credit accounts using your name or information. If you need to open a credit card account or make a large purchase, like a car, you can temporarily lift that freeze.
"It's a little bit of peace of mind for folks who want to make sure that if their identity is compromised, they should not be at risk," Better Business Bureau of Greensboro spokesman Kevin Hinterberger said.
A credit freeze is typically free, or only costs a few dollars. You'll receive pass codes and passwords that will be required if you choose to lift that freeze. This is also a good idea to do to protect your children.
"We have seen instances where young children's identities are stolen. Credit is issued in their name and it's not discovered until that child applies for college, applies for their first car loan or something like that. Then, they find out their credit has been destroyed," Hinterberger said.
Also, request your free credit report three times a year. To do that online, visit annualcreditreport.com. When you look at your report, make sure to look at the inquiries section to see what companies or individuals have looked into your credit.
"If it's somebody you do not recognize and you do not have a relationship with that company, then that's an indication to look into that further to make sure somebody else did not use your name to apply for credit," Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions Credit Counselor Melissa Rivera said.
If you're especially concerned, you can also reach out to credit monitoring services. They'll do some of the work for you, but you can do quite a bit on your own.
You can also sign up for a free credit report reminder on the 2 Wants To Know page of our website. It's on the right side of the page.