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How to protect yourself after Capital One data breach

Approximately 100 million U.S. consumers have been affected by the Capital One data breach.
/ Source: TODAY

If you are one of the approximately 100 million U.S. consumers affected by the Capital One data breach, experts say there are multiple steps you can take to protect your credit and guard against fraud.

Capital One announced Monday in a statement to NBC News that the breach affects about 100 million U.S. customers and approximately 6 million customers in Canada, with about 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank accounts potentially at risk.

The compromised information potentially includes names, birth dates, addresses and phone numbers of people who applied for Capital One credit cards between 2005 and 2019, as well as information from credit histories.

Paige A. Thompson, 33, a former software engineer from Seattle, has been arrested in connection with the breach after allegedly posting the stolen data to an information-sharing website, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.

The news comes days after credit-monitoring service Equifax agreed to a class-action settlement in which it will pay up to $700 million in claims in the wake of the 2017 data breach that compromised the personal information of more than 140 million Americans.

For those potentially affected by the Capital One breach, experts say taking these steps can help protect your credit.

Put a freeze on your credit

Freezing your credit at the three major services — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — prevents your credit history from being accessed and does not allow new accounts to be opened in your name. The process is free and does not affect your credit. You need to register on the websites for the three firms using your name, Social Security number, date of birth and home address.

You can then "unfreeze" your credit if you are applying for a loan, buying a car, etc.

Keep a close eye on your credit card statement

Check your statement online, and if there are any suspicious charges, report them immediately to your bank. Also, change your online banking password to make it harder for hackers to access your account.

Experts also suggest two-factor authentication, which goes beyond just one password and requires you to enter a code sent to your phone or email in order to log in from a new device.

Place a fraud alert on your credit

If you don't want to freeze your credit because you are applying for a loan, set up an alert with one of the three credit-monitoring agencies. This will prompt any potential creditors to verify the identity of anyone trying to issue new credit in your name.

Sign up for additional protection

Services like LifeLock and Identity Guard charge a fee for extra credit-monitoring services like helping with identity theft, checking to see if your information is on black-market websites and assisting with lost or stolen credit cards, driver's licenses and other personal information.