The digital age has made society increasingly comfortable with distributing personal information without second thought. This convenience comes with risks and it is often all too easy to forget the consequences of compromised information. Target’s recent credit card security breach which compromised over 40 million in store customers between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, should remind us of the dangers of swiping our credit and debit cards. The personal information stolen is estimated to be valued at over $800 million.
Cyber criminals have managed to stay one step ahead of cyber security experts. The magnetic strips on the back of US credit and debit cards make it especially easy for cyber criminals to steal consumer information, including cardholder names, card numbers, expiration dates and security codes. It is believed that the criminals were able to access Target’s Point of Sale system; enabling them to create counterfeit cards and use consumers’ accounts. On a global scale, credit and debit card fraud has climbed to over $11.27 billion as of last year. While retailers and credit card companies are often hesitant to beef up their cyber security measures, due to its exorbitant costs, consumers can take action to secure their personal information.
Here are 4 steps you should take as a consumer to ensure personal information is safe and secure.
Close all credit and debit cards - Closing all cards is the best way to prevent any future unwanted purchases from being charged onto your account. This will ensure you won’t be on the hook for any purchases you did not make as well as ward off any other potential fraudulent charges or theft.
Change all passwords or PINS - While the current purchases have already been made with the existing account information, changing your passwords and/or PIN numbers can prevent cyber criminals from making future purchases or accounts. Get creative when coming up with new passwords in order to decrease the likelihood of criminals hacking into your account again. Here are some of the most commonly used passwords you want to avoid using.
Check all financial statements - Thoroughly read over all credit and debit card statements to look out for any suspicious or uncertain purchases that were possibly made. Be sure to check frequently to keep track of your purchases and be more aware of what you purchased and what you did not. Take note of any unwanted purchases and contact the credit card company immediately.
Contact Credit Bureaus - Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every year, which includes credit card balance and payment activity. Get in touch with one of the three major credit bureaus, including Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. You can request a credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Lastly, If you were affected by the Target security breach, don’t panic! All banks are aware of the situation and should be understanding if any fraud occurs on your account.