Has your personal information been compromised online? If it were, it may be difficult to know for sure if you're among the several billion people whose information has gotten into the hands of scammers.

But, there are websites that can inform if your data has fallen into the wrong hands.

One such site is HaveIBeenPwned.com

Once there, simply input your email address.

In case you're wondering what 'pwned' is, you're not alone. In doing some research for this article I had to look it up myself. It essentially means 'owned', but the variation 'pwned' is frequently used to describe someone stealing or having access to your account. The variation is apparently an accidental typo caused by a stray key stroke by video gamers who were attempting to type 'owned'. In the digital world, it caught on and has become the term to describe when your info is compromised.

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Once you've typed in your email address, the site can tell you if your account credentials - things like username and password - were stolen in a data breach or almost any kind.

For instance, in typing in my own email address, I found some of my credential information has been compromised on sites or apps I used previously, like the 'My Fitness Pal' app, photo editing website 'Canva', and on the site 'Tumblr'.  According to the information I was provided, the information compromised was just the email address and possibly the password. In one case, my geographic location had also been shared.

Fortunately, I do not have any financial accounts linked to any of these sites, and actually hadn't used them in some time.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

But, what should you do if you find out you've been 'pwned'?

The first step involves changing your password on those sites were it was compromised. While you're changing the password for the breached account, it is also strongly recommended that you used different passwords on different websites for account security. That way, if you someone somehow obtains your email and password for a social media or chat board website, you won't be worried that the hackers also now have your login and password information for your local bank, for instance. Because believe it or not, for many people, those username and password combos are exactly the same for all the website, phone apps, and security logins in their name.

Something else I found through the HIBP site, is a link to a place called 1password. This is one of several services out there that generate unique, sophisticated passwords for each site you use. This way, using my own situation as an example, if someone does access my email and password combination, the only thing I'd have to worry about is someone logging into the My Fitness Pal account and changing my the macros for my daily meal plan...something I'm not that concerned about.

Photo by Privecstasy on Unsplash
Photo by Privecstasy on Unsplash

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