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Marriott breach 2018: Here’s why you shouldn’t freak out



A data breach like the one
affecting Marriott customers won’t ruin your financial


  • About 500 million people have had their data hacked after staying at Marriott brands
    including W, Sheraton, and Westin, the company said on Friday.
  • A breach in the Starwood guest-authorization database
    means that millions of people had a combination of their name,
    address, passport number, date of birth, and other information
    stolen, the company said. An unspecified number of people also
    had their credit-card information taken, though it was
  • Data
    are becoming our new normal, so it’s more
    important than ever to stay on top of your money with secure
    passwords and consistent monitoring.
  • One solution, according to many experts, isfreezing your credit, but
    that won’t protect against the most common type of identity

About 500 million people have had their data hacked after staying
at Marriott brands including W, Sheraton, and Westin, the company
said on Friday.

For about 367 million of those affected, Marriott said, the
information taken includes some combination of their name,
mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number,
date of birth, gender, and other information around their
Starwood account,
reported Business Insider’s

Sinéad Baker
. An unspecified number of people had their
credit-card information taken.

Marriott said the unauthorized access had been going on since
2014 and that the breach affected customers who made bookings on
or before September 10.

In 2017, Equifax, one of the three credit reporting agencies in
the US, was compromised, potentially exposing
the Social Security numbers
, credit card numbers, and other
personal information of nearly 150 million Americans. The breach
rightly upset many people, in part because Equifax’s chief
financial officer and two other senior executives
dumped almost $2 million of Equifax stock
once they learned
about the hack.

data breaches are nothing new
, and they aren’t going away. In
fact, between January 2017 and April 2018, at least
16 separate security breaches
occurred at US retailers,
reported Business Insider’s Mary Hanbury and Dennis Green.

Keeping our money online is convenient and easy, except in
instances like this. But you still shouldn’t freak out.

As Business Insider’s resident financial planner Lauren Lyons
Cole pointed out in
an article on the Equifax breach
, “Even when we take all
kinds of steps to protect ourselves online, our best-laid plans
can still result in financial foibles — whether as a result of
our own error or a giant financial company’s.”

“The only thing we can do is try to protect our data as best we
can, and respond quickly if something does happen,” she
continued. “You’ll be okay, I promise.”

Here are Lyons-Cole’s tips for protecting your data online.

1. Find out if you’ve even been compromised.

The AP
that Marriott will send email notifications to those
affected starting Friday.

2. Use secure passwords on all of your accounts, including your
online shopping accounts.

This is like eating your vegetables: You know you should do it,
but it’s not fun and you’d rather not. I get it. But any data
security expert will tell you secure passwords are a necessity.
Every site you use should have a different password, and it
shouldn’t be easy to guess.

Keeping track of a random string of 15 letters and numbers is
basically impossible, so I use LastPass to generate and save all
my online passwords. Hopefully, they don’t get hacked, but at
least it’s better than storing all my login info on the notepad
app on my iPhone.

3. Understand how to freeze your credit, but don’t do it quite

Freezing your credit
protects against new accounts being
opened in your name — one of the rarest types of identity theft
out there, affecting only 4% of victims, according to the most
Bureau of Justice Statisticsdata. 

The vast majority of identity theft victims — 86% in 2014 —
have problems with a current account, such as a credit card or
bank account, according to

BJS data
. Freezing your credit
won’t prevent that type of crime.

If securing your passwords seems like too big a lift, then
your credit
or even setting up a fraud
to protect against the
chance of identity theft
will definitely give you a headache.

Setting up a fraud alert only requires calling one of the credit
agencies, but you’re going to have make copies of and mail in
many important documents to put it in place.

Freezing your credit means dealing with customer service agents
at all three credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian —
and keeping track of a unique pin number that you’re going to
need anytime you want to open a new account or move to a new
apartment. Make sure you fully understand how it works (the Federal Trade
Commission has a nice breakdown
) before you start the

One caveat: If your identity has actually been compromised — as
in, someone tried to open a fraudulent account in your name —
then this is an important step to take.

4. Monitor your money regularly — even if you haven’t been

I use to quickly
check all of my financial accounts every morning, just like I
check email and Instagram. This came in handy both times my
credit card was stolen. I was able to identify the pending
charges before they even cleared my account, and American Express
overnighted me a new card immediately. It was a little annoying,
but not that big of a deal. I know people who have experienced
far more serious identity theft, and managed to resolve the issue
by identifying it and acting quickly.

If you have been compromised, this becomes even more essential.
You can monitor your credit for free with a service like CreditKarma by
selecting to be notified when a new account is opened under
“Communications and Monitoring” in the profile settings.

For those affected by the Marriott breach,
the company says
it will pay for guests to sign up for a
year-long membership for WebWatcher software, which monitors
where your personal information is shared online.

5. Optimize your money management and credit usage.

A breach like this is a good reminder to check your credit score,
pull your credit report, and review the way you’re currently
managing your money. There may be things you can do to improve your credit
, fix any errors on your
credit report
, and optimize your current
collection of credit cards

Considering data
are more or less our new normal, the only thing we
can really do is the one thing we should be doing anyway: Stay on
top of your money, and fix any issues as soon as you can. No one
is going to be more interested in your financial situation than
you are. Not even a hacker.

6. File your taxes early.

The IRS is cracking down on tax fraud,
but there could be an uptick after a data breach of this size.
Get your tax information organized early, and submit your return
as soon as you receive your W-2 and 1099 forms. Added benefit: If
you’re due a refund, you’ll get it sooner, and if you owe taxes,
the amount isn’t due until April 15 regardless of when you submit
your return.

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