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Credit Card Hacking
At least 110 million people who shopped at mega-retailer Target over the holiday season may have had their credit or debit cards hacked. This is definitely one of the largest hacking events, but it is far from the only one. In fact, upscale retailer Nieman Marcus reported right after the start of 2014 that some of its shoppers also were hacked. So what do you do if you think you might be at risk?
First, don’t panic, experts say. Consumer protection laws provide significant protections for cardholders against this kind of fraud. However, most of these protections require that you report the fraud in a timely fashion. So the first step is to contact your bank or credit card company and report your concerns. If they are aware of the breach, they might already have sent you a new card. If you are worried, you can request one.
At the same time, check the affected account – your credit card or bank account – often, especially in the beginning. Obviously, be on the lookout for major charges or withdrawals you did not make. But also look for small charges – even a few cents. Often hackers will test whether they can get into an account by making tiny withdrawals, which they think the account holder might not notice. Let your bank or card company know about any suspicious charge.
Monitor your credit reports. Depending on the kind of account information stolen, hackers can attempt to open a credit card under your name. If they do, you might not know about it until you get the first bill.
You also might consider signing up for a credit monitoring or fraud protection service. If you shopped at Target during the affected time, the company is offering a year of free credit monitoring. To take advantage of the offer, you should go to creditmonitoring.target.com before April 23, 2014, to receive an activation code; you must redeem the code by April 30.
The Target breach is just one example of the ways in which your credit or debit card information can be compromised. The Federal Trade Commission offers the following suggestions for protecting yourself:
- Don’t give your credit card number to a company over the phone unless you are absolutely positive that the company is legitimate.
- Carry your cards separately from your wallet or purse. Also, only carry the card or cards you plan to use; don’t carry a bunch of cards everywhere you go.
- Keep your eye on your card during the transaction, and make sure you have it before you leave the cash register.
- Never sign a blank receipt.
- Keep your receipts to check against your statement.
- Open and check your statement as soon as you receive it. You also can check your statement online. Report any questions immediately.
- Let your card issuer know if you have moved or will be traveling.
- Never write your account number on the outside of your envelope.