By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Most consumers know to act fast if and when they are the victim of a personal data breach. But 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan has advice on what you can do to protect and prepare before that breach even happens.

So much of our personal data is stored in so many places that breaches have become something every consumer needs to anticipate. Adam Levin, founder of Identity Theft 911, says, “The sophistication level of the breaches is getting greater. The sophistication level of the hackers is becoming more pronounced and therefore, sometimes it becomes harder to detect that you’re a victim.”

Consumer experts like Levin advise having a plan before a breach occurs. He says, “It starts with never using the same password twice — potentially giving away access to multiple financial, email and social networking accounts.”

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He also suggests having your own monitoring system that will allow you to possibly spot a breach before your financial institution.

“You can also institute a monitoring philosophy which is, you look at your credit reports, you look at your banking accounts and credit card accounts online everyday to make sure every transaction you make is yours,” Levin explains.

Also consider signing up for programs that alert you any time a credit or debit transaction takes place. And even if you haven’t officially heard from a website or institution that your information has been compromised, if something looks out of place, act fast to curb potential damage.

Remember that you’re entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the big three credit reporting firms. To obtain yours visit:

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