7 Ways To Protect Against Credit Card Hacks
Pardon us for sounding all doom and gloom, but a series of incidents proves that your sensitive financial and personal data isn’t necessary safe. Look at some recent stats. A Home Depot data breach affected some 56 million credit and debit cards. The well-known Target breach affected more than 40 million consumers, and if you want to see the many other breaches – some even larger – in a depressing, graphic format, take a look at this chart. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports survey, 22.5 % of 5,000 consumers who received notice of a security breach became victims of identity fraud.
Why do cyber thieves take the time to wreck havoc in such large proportions? Because it pays. On the black market, your credit card information is worth an average of $32!
Data breaches are now part of life, and you need to know how to protect yourself. Since hackers are going after the companies that hold your information, it’s hard to stop them from getting your information. All the same, you can take steps to minimize the damage. Even if you haven't been hacked yet, many of these moves can make your information less easy to find and less usable if you are caught up in a breach.
1. Get a Replacement Card
If you've been told you're in a data breach, don’t ask…tell the company that you either get a new card or close the account. You’re not likely to get any pushback from the already embarrassed company. If you do, don’t back down.
2. Check Your Account Online
Don’t wait to check it when the statement arrives; check today. Keep checking daily for at least 30 days after your new card arrives. If you find a suspicious charge, dispute it immediately.
3. Freeze Your Credit
If you are caught up in a data breach, call each of the three main credit bureaus and request that your credit report be frozen. Freezing doesn’t allow anybody to access your credit report without your approval. Creditors probably won’t approve an application without having access to the person’s credit report.
If you're deeply worried about potential breaches, you can also freeze your accounts; you don't have to be a fraud victim. However, this step makes getting any kind of credit exceedingly cumbersome for you and and the potential lender, so you may want to think twice about taking it.
4. Order Your Credit Reports
You get one free credit report per year by law, but you’ll probably be eligible for more frequent free reports if you were a victim of fraud. Even if you haven't been targeted yet, be proactive and get your free reports. Ideally, order one every four months so you've covered the year.
5. Watch for Phishing Scams
Just because thieves have your credit card number doesn’t mean they also have the expiration date and the three- or four-digit CVV number. Beware of phishing, a scam where the thief might send an e-mail or call in an attempt to gain the rest of the information. Don’t give your information to anybody unless you call them. If somebody leaves a message, go to the company’s website and find a contact number to make sure it matches what the person in the message provided. For even more security, call the company directly and make sure the person who called you is legitimate.
6. Don’t Sign Up for High-Priced Fraud Protection
In the panic of the moment, you might be tempted to shell out up to $300 per year for credit monitoring services. Don’t do it. By closely reviewing the information you get free of charge, you can monitor your own accounts. If a company provides the information to you free of charge, make sure to cancel the service before the renewal date.
7. Be Smart About Passwords
You aren’t going to prevent a breach by employing all of the password rules, but you don’t know what kind of information thieves were about to steal. Employ strong passwords (those random letters and numbers) and change your password frequently. Remember, if it’s easy for you to remember, it's probably easy for a savvy cyber thief to crack.