How to Protect Yourself after a Data Breach
Data breaches have become a huge concern in America over the last year. Since Target’s massive breach in late 2013, major retail chains seem to be getting hacked on a regular basis. American banks and retailers are working to enhance their security systems, but your card may still be at risk for the time being. Here’s how to protect yourself after a data breach has occurred.
Request a New Credit Card
As soon as a data breach takes place that could affect you, request a new credit card. You may be able to do this through your issuer’s customer service department, or through the lost and stolen card department. Some companies will charge a small fee for a replacement card, but most will swap cards for you for free.
When you request a new credit card, your old card and its number are destroyed. That means that if a thief tries to use your card in the future, the card will be declined. You will have to wait for the new card to arrive in the mail, so make sure you have money to pay for your purchases during this time.
Monitor Your Account and Your Credit Reports
If your account is vulnerable, watch closely for unauthorized charges. You should do this anyway just as extra protection, but it is especially important after a data breach. Here are some tips:
- Get in the habit of checking your account once every few days.
- Sign up for email alerts when something is charged to the account. Not all banks will offer this, but these alerts let you know when a new transaction has been made using your card.
- Take advantage of free credit monitoring. Most retailers now offer credit monitoring services through a third-party provider for anyone who may have been at risk in the breach.
You also need to keep an eye on your credit report for signs of identity theft. If you notice strange applications for loans or credit cards in your name, file a dispute with the financial institution and with the credit bureaus immediately. It may take some time to get this off your credit report. So the sooner you notice an issue, the better.
Keep Track of Your Purchases
Don’t just rely on your computer and bank statements to calculate your balance. Keep an accurate account of your charges and payments so you can tell when something is not right. Even a small charge of $1 or $2 could be a sign of a big problem to come. Alert your card provider at the first sign of an unauthorized charge so they can reimburse your account and change your card.
Change Your PIN and Other Passwords
Debit cards can be just as vulnerable in data breaches as credit cards. In addition to getting a new card, you should change your PIN so that it cannot be used in the future. It would also be wise to change the passwords for any email address or online account associated with your card. Data breaches can compromise all your identifying information, so take whatever precautions you can to protect this data.
Continue to Shop as Usual
You cannot be afraid to go to the store just because data breaches are prevalent right now. You could try switching to cash transactions, but then you have to worry about your cash getting stolen. As long as you keep an eye on your bank accounts, credit card accounts and credit reports, you should be able to spot a problem early.