Data breaches are all over the news recently. It seems like, at one time or another, some companies have issues with keeping your data protected. And that means you may occasionally find yourself on the wrong side of a hacking or scamming attempt.
You probably think of a few things when you consider data breaches: credit card companies, banks, social media sites, and similar companies. However, one thing you may not have considered is colleges.
Colleges can have data breaches just like any other organization. And contrary to what you might think, those breaches can hit pretty hard. Here are just a few of the pieces of information that hackers may be able to take advantage of if your college suffers a data breach:
Your past and present addresses
Phone numbers and email addresses
You probably give this out to plenty of social media sites and online sellers, so it might not strike you as an important thing to keep private. However, your address, as well as previous addresses, are things to keep private when possible.
You should give that information out to only the companies you trust, because you don’t want everyone having knowledge about who you are and where you live. Hackers can use this for door-to-door scams, which are actually still surprisingly common.
Phone Numbers and Email Addresses
Pretty much everyone has dealt with robocalls and spam emails, and they’re definitely annoying. Even if you never actually fall for one of these scams, the frustration with deciding whether to pick up the phone and potentially hear a pre-recorded message can be enough to make some people want to stop their phone service entirely.
Your phone number and email address are pieces of information that you also probably provide to many companies. But, by law, those companies (your bank, doctor’s office, charitable organizations, etc.) agree to use that information in a specific way. Scammers and hackers don’t do that.
When you go to college, you’ll usually have to pay for some or all of the tuition, personally or through loans and grants. If you’ve ever paid directly for your tuition fees, that means you’ve given the college your payment information. Although that’s fine in most circumstances, it becomes dangerous if your information then falls into unscrupulous hands.
That’s why a data breach at a college should catch your attention just as much as data breaches at any other company where you have personal or financial information stored. It carries the same potential risk for you as a customer.
More and more, colleges require that students have online accounts to view courses, submit coursework, make payments, and more. Although you should generally create strong passwords and maintain different passwords on different websites to keep yourself safe online, an alarming number of people don’t follow that advice.
That means if your college suffers a data breach, your password may now be out in the open for just about anyone to take and run with.
How Can I Protect Myself if a Data Breach Occurs?
If you find out that your college suffered a data breach, don’t panic just yet. You have a number of tools at your disposal that you can use to keep yourself safe both now and in the coming months. Your first stop should be to determine what was stolen. Was it online information? Physical information? Information on very specific students, or information on the student body as a whole?
Next, you should start changing your passwords and paying attention to your credit report. Even if you found no direct evidence that your information was part of that compromised in a breach, it can’t hurt to take extra precautions.
Finally, you want to keep track of your online information moving forward. At sites like PeopleFinders, you have access to a host of tools that may make it easier for you to try and keep an eye on your public records and other information about yourself online.
Try and perform a people search on yourself, and then see what turns up. If you find your personal information floating around for no obvious reason–or you see information that is clearly wrong–you’ll know what you need to clean up. Then you can move forward with the right entities in order to do so.
You may not have noticed it, but a data breach has probably impacted you at some point. Whether the impact was significant or minor, you should keep in mind that the number of companies that you interact with everyday–or the college that you went to in the past–could leave you open to a lot of privacy concerns. With PeopleFinders, you have the power to try and counteract anything that hackers try to do with your data.
Image attribution: Roman Stetsyk – stock.adobe.com