Personal Finance Word of the Day: Data Breach

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Shred, don’t toss, important papers. Any sensitive documents that won’t be going with you should be shred, not just thrown into a trash can. Identity thieves often go “dumpster diving” to find information or get paperwork they can use to illegally open accounts in your name.

You’ve likely heard this term more often since the media attention swirling around the data breach at Target. But what exactly is a data breach?

According to technology site Techopedia, a data breach involves “the unauthorized or illegal viewing, access or retrieval of data by an individual, application or service. It is a type of security breach specifically designed to steal and/or publish data to an unsecured or illegal location.”

So, in a nutshell, the goal of the thief is to steal your data and then move it to another location so that they can carry on illegal activity for their benefit. Two other common names for a data breach are “data leak” or “data spill.”

A data breach does not have to be digital. A scammer can also obtain data through stealing paper documents. This is why it is very important not to leave sensitive information in your trash can. Your shredder is your friend.

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