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As data breaches and security risks only become more commonplace for American consumers, it may feel like your personal information is a ticking time bomb.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit established to help victims of identity theft, data breaches have become “the new normal.” The Center’s 2018 End of Year Report found that, while the total number of breaches decreased from 2017’s all-time high, the amount of consumer records containing sensitive personal information is on the rise, increasing by 126 percent year-over-year.

When data breaches uncover this personal information, whether it’s highly sensitive like your social security number or simply email addresses and passwords, the effects on your financial health may be long-lasting.

Fraudsters who steal and use your information to open lines of credit or take out loans can create a tangled web of false accounts in your name and damage your credit score in the process. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure the safety of your information and enact measures to keep it protected.

To help, Discover continues to develop free tools and resources so cardholders and consumers can rest assured that their information is safe.

Discover cardholder benefits

There are simple ways that you can begin today to protect your data from a security breach, like freezing your credit, evaluating your statements and monitoring your credit report regularly. Discover is making it easy for its cardholders to proactively enable these practical security measures with a suite of free tools and other resources.

Here are a few that you can begin using today:

Dark Web monitoring and alerts

Activate Discover’s Social Security number alert, and Discover will conduct daily surveillance of thousands of Dark Web sites for your Social Security number. These are sites where hackers may buy and sell your sensitive personal information for identity theft purposes.

If your Social Security number is found on one of these sites after you’re enrolled, Discover will notify you by email so you can take action.

Discover also monitors your Experian® credit report daily and, similarly, will alert you if a new account is listed in your name. This alert covers any new credit cards as well as new auto loans, mortgages or other types of credit accounts.

Freeze it® feature

If you’re afraid your card information has been compromised, either by a data breach or a lost or stolen card, Discover makes it easy to freeze your account, preventing fraudulent activity.

With Discover’s Freeze it® feature, you can freeze your account in seconds online or through the Discover app. After switching the feature on, Discover will not authorize any new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers made to your account. If you have recurring payments connected to the card, make a return or have a dispute adjustment though, that activity will continue, along with select other account activity like interest and account fees.

Beyond freezing your account, you may also choose to freeze your credit altogether. Freezing your credit is one of the simplest and most effective ways to protect your information from both individual instances of fraud and major data breaches.

A credit freeze restricts access to your credit, which makes it difficult to open fraudulent accounts in your name. In 2018, fees associated with freezing your credit were abolished, but it’s still necessary to contact each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) in order to enact the freeze, which, like Freeze it® on your Discover account, will remain in place until you request that it be lifted.

Credit Scorecard tool

Even if you’re not yet a Discover cardmember, you can take advantage of Discover’s free security alerts with Credit Scorecard.

Credit Scorecard allows you to see your updated FICO® Credit Score every 30 days. You can also receive Social Security number alerts, new account alerts and new credit inquiry alerts from your Experian® credit report, so you can stay on top of any attempted fraudulent activity.

The tool is always free and your credit score will never be impacted by checking with Credit Scorecard, both for Discover cardmembers and non-members.

Bottom line

While it’s impossible to anticipate where the next major data breach will come from or whether you will be impacted, Discover can help you ensure your information is safe and that you’re aware of any potentially harmful activity as quickly as possible.

Security is key to fraud prevention, and with Discover’s timely alerts, monitoring service and regular credit checks, you can stay one step ahead of fraudsters to keep your data secure.