Protecting yourself from data breaches and identity theft - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Protecting yourself from data breaches and identity theft

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

Data breaches like the ones at Target, Home Depot and K-Mart might make us all hesitant to swipe that card when we are out shopping. However, it's not only that we should be cautious about.

According to recent numbers, about 15 million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year.

Here's some ways to make sure you're not one of them.

“It makes you sick to your stomach,” Travis Sheppard said.

Sheppard was working as a police officer in Alaska when his credit card information was stolen.

“When she answered the phone her first words out of her mouth were not ‘Hello, dear, how's your night?' It was, ‘What are you doing in New York?'” Sheppard said.

It's a call no one wants to get.

“Embarrassing. Being a law enforcement officer and you have to call your fellow law enforcement officers to do a report,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard says, thankfully he and his wife check their statements frequently. If they didn't, things could have been worse.

“For us, it only took three or four months to get everything resolved,” Sheppard said.

But Cybercrimes Professor Mark Rogers says, usually, it's not that simple.

“It takes years to get good credit and it just takes a couple months for your credit to be ruined and it can take forever for it to be straightened out,” Rogers said.

He says many times it is everyday things we do that put us at risk.

“We have a habit of sacrificing security for convenience all the time,” Rogers said.

Rogers says protecting ourselves from identity theft often starts online.

“We need to use different passwords for different accounts,” Rogers said.

To help with that, Rogers suggests password management programs like KeePass.

“Automatically log you in to every website you go to,” Rogers said.

Rogers says if he buys online, he uses a prepaid card, otherwise he says these days cash is your best friend.

“Go to your ATM and get 100 dollars if you're going to go out to eat,” Rogers said.

He says most importantly, we need to monitor personal info every day. Rogers says it's important to check your bank statements frequently and even on the go but, he says, you want to be careful where you're doing that. Places like McDonald's have free Wi-Fi but they're not secure networks. The same goes for places like public libraries. That could but you at risk.

Sheppard says, take it from someone who knows. Take these steps to stop the theft before it starts.

“Protect your family. That's the best thing you can do,” Sheppard said.

If you're considering looking into a service like LifeLock, Rogers says, it can be helpful, especially if you're too busy to monitor your own bank statements. However, he says, through monitoring and simple self-protection, you can keep yourself from being a victim on your own.

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