Personal Finance

Robinhood's data breach involved about 7 million customers. Here's how to protect your credit from fraudsters

Key Points
  • The online brokerage said Monday that a Nov. 3 data breach involved about 7 million customers.
  • Most of them had either their email address or full names exposed, while a small group had more extensive information compromised.
  • The incident is a good reminder that there are ways to prevent criminals from using your personal information to get a loan or credit card in your name.
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Robinhood reveals data security incident

Investors with accounts at Robinhood may want to take steps to protect their credit.

The online brokerage, which has about 18.9 million retail clients, announced Monday that a Nov. 3 data breach resulted in various information about 7 million customers being exposed. For 5 million of them, email address were accessed, and another 2 million had their full names revealed.

Additionally, personal information including name, date of birth and ZIP code was exposed for about 310 people, and about 10 customers had more extensive account details revealed. Robinhood said it is alerting affected individuals.

Kacper Pempel | REUTERS

The company said that based on its investigation, no Social Security numbers were exposed. Nor were bank account or debit card numbers.

Nevertheless, whether your personal data was involved in the data breach or not, the incident is a good reminder that it's worth protecting your credit from criminals.

The first option is to freeze your credit report, which generally blocks outside access to your file. This means a scammer can't use your personal information to get a loan or establish credit, because the potential lender can't check your report to approve the application. 

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However, if you need to apply for new credit, you'd need to temporarily lift the freeze. Otherwise, it lasts until you remove it, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Also, you must alert the major credit-reporting firms — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to freeze your report at each of them.

You also can use a short-term fraud alert, which lasts one year. These alerts are different from freezes: Under a fraud alert, a lender seeking to approve an application must first contact you to verify the request is not from an imposter.

You only need to contact one credit reporting firm to initiate a fraud alert, which in turn is legally obligated to share your notice with others. It also is free.

It's also worth considering a credit-monitoring service, which can alert you to potential fraud on your credit report. However, it will not prevent it. Some of the more basic services are free, while more comprehensive coverage can come with a charge.