We just saw a report from the American Institute of CPAs that found 25 percent of Americans fell victim to information security breaches in the past year. That compares with just 11 percent in the previous year.

Pretty scary, especially considering how much financial information is online these days. These data breaches didn’t necessarily mean someone has stolen money from 25 percent of the Americans who were surveyed, but the potential is there. With your personal financial information, hackers could run up debts on your credit card, open new credit accounts, ask your friends and relatives for money (posing as you) and, yes, withdraw money from your accounts.

It might not even be your fault. Target, Neiman Marcus, SuperValu, JP Morgan Chase, Kmart and Sony have all seen their customer accounts compromised.

“No age group is safe from personal information security breaches—regardless of their online activity. The survey showed that 34 percent of adults aged 55-64 fell victim to information security breaches in the last year, compared to the 22 percent of Millennials who are typically seen as being the most active age group on digital communications platforms among adults,” the AICPA wrote in its report.

And it’s not limited to cities. Giving the nature of the Internet, folks in Custer, Rapid City, Spearfish and Williston are as vulnerable to data theft as anyone else in the world. But there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself, according to Jennifer Konvalin, CPA and Ketel Thorstenson partner. We’ve listed these steps before, but they bear repeating.
● Change your passwords and pins regularly.
● Make your passwords unique, and avoid using kids’ names, pet names or social security numbers. Instead, use a mix of numbers, letters and symbols that are at least seven characters long.
● Avoid using the same password for all of your online activity.
● Memorize your passwords; don’t write them down.
● Be aware of “phishing.” This is when legitimate websites are copied and used to create phony sites in order to obtain confidential information.
● Monitor your bank account and credit cards regularly.
● Never provide personal information on the phone or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact.
● Don’t use a debit or credit card online unless you have initiated the purchase, and be sure it’s a secure, encrypted system. (Look for the “https” in the Internet address.)
● Avoid shopping when you are on a public Wi-Fi connection.