AT&T recently notified nine million of its customers that some of their personal information was exposed when a marketing partner of AT&T was hacked in January.  While the data breach did not include credit card information, Social Security numbers or account passwords, it did include customers names, account numbers, cell phone numbers and email addresses, all of which can be used to target victims of the data breach with spear phishing emails or smishing text messages intended to lure them into identity theft or other scams.

As I have reminded you many times, we are only as safe and secure as the security of the companies, government agencies and websites that have our personal information.  Even if you are extremely diligent in protecting your personal information, you can be in danger of identity theft and scams if your personal information falls into the hands of hackers.

So what can you do to protect yourself from these data breaches that will be occurring?


One important lesson is to limit the amount of personal information that you provide to companies and websites whenever possible.  For example, your doctor doesn’t need your Social Security number for his or her records.

You should make sure that you have a unique password for each of your online accounts so that if one of your passwords is compromised in a data breach, all of your accounts will not be in danger.  If your information is compromised in a data breach, you should immediately change the password for that account.

If you have not already done so, set up dual factor authentication for each of you accounts where it is available. This will protect you from having those accounts stolen by someone who may have access to your password.

Freezing your credit is also something everyone should do.  It is free and easy to do.  In addition, it protects you from someone using your identity to obtain loans or make large purchases even if they have your Social Security number.  If you have not already done so, put a credit freeze on your credit reports at all of the major credit reporting agencies.  Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
In this particular case only people who agreed to have their personal information shared with third party vendors were victims of the data breach. Most people don’t even realize when they allow companies to share their information.  If you are an AT&T customer, I suggest that you limit the sharing of your information by AT&T to avoid this kind of a problem in the future.  You can do so here.

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