Staff Contributor

The Internet has given identity thieves a new tool in their quest to steal personal information, and it seems it is almost weekly these days that a big financial or consumer company gets hit by a data breach.

The good news is you aren't helpless in the matter, and there are some things you can do to protect yourself against a data breach.

Vary and change passwords

If a hacker steals your personal information from one account, including passwords, his job is made a lot easier if you use that password elsewhere. To protect yourself, use different passwords for every account and change those passwords often.

Watch for email scams

One of the ways identity thieves play their trade is through sending fake emails. Keep in mind that most retailers and financial companies will never ask you for personal information via email.

Signs to watch for that the email might be a scam include misspellings and sending you to a website with an address that's different from the one you usually go to. If you are unsure about an email, check with the company that supposedly sent it.

Monitor your accounts

One of the reasons identity thieves are able to do so much damage is that victims don't use the proper amount of vigilance.

If you only check your credit card statement when the bill arrives and then just glance at it, you may miss fraudulent transactions. Check your statements often to ensure you can quickly find if something is amiss.

Use safer ways to pay

Data breaches at retailers allow scammers to steal your credit card data. However, if you don't provide that data, there is nothing to steal.

Using newer, more-secure ways to pay, such as store or general pay apps, helps avoid exposing your data. You also can avoid a breach by paying the old-fashioned way: with cold, hard cash.

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