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Also, companies that have had a data breach often offer to pay for customers' credit monitoring. Target, for example, offered one year of free credit monitoring, including identity theft insurance, to Target shoppers after its data breach last year.
4. Bank smarter. Many banks offer a service that sends an email alert when any major changes -- or charges -- are made to a customer's account. The alerts can be very helpful in detecting identity theft. If you want to be extra cautious, don't make money transfers online or pay bills electronically -- use a check. "Paper is much more secure," says Litan. Also, experts recommend changing your passwords often. And never use the same password for banking that you use for lower-security websites. Non-banking sites tend to be easier to hack.
5. Don't rely on companies. Vendini, the latest company to report a data breach, on Friday scored a rare settlement for a class-action lawsuit about compromised data. The company, which offers ticketing services for theaters and event venues, will pay out up to $3,000 per customer for identity theft losses, but it will be difficult for people to collect their money, because it is necessary to prove that the information that was used for identity theft came from Vendini. The lesson: don't depend on companies to let you know if your data has been stolen. If you want to protect yourself, it's best to take matters into your own hands.
© 2014 Associated Press under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.