Save this info: Data Breach Battle Plan

Protect your accounts even if hackers get data

(Augie Martin/CNN)

It's not something we want to live with, but data breaches at some of America's largest retailers has become a constant cyber-battle that affects all of us.

In the past year, we've seen Target, Neiman-Marcus, Home Depot, and Jimmy John's fall victim to someone looking to steal our personal information.

There's little doubt we will see more data breaches in the future. Working with the Better Business Bureau, Ruth to the Rescue has come up with these guidelines to help you respond every time you fear one of your credit or debit cards may have been involved in a breach.

1) Stay calm. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.

2) Check with the website of the retailer for the latest information. Type the store name directly into your browser. Do NOT click on a link from an email or social media message.

3) Beware of emails that may come into your inbox, claiming to help you deal with the crisis. Those emails could be fake, hoping you'll click on a dangerous link or share personal information.

4) If your card was compromised, you will likely hear from the bank or card-issuer first. If you have questions, call the customer service number on your card.

5) Consider putting fraud alerts on all your accounts. Check with each bank or financial institution on how to do so. You can usually set a dollar amount that
will spark a fraud warning, if the company sees suspicious activity.

6) Monitor all your financial accounts carefully. If you have computer access, try checking your account weekly. Do not wait for the monthly statement.

7) If you see a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately so the charge can be reversed and a new card issued.

8) Keep receipts so you can prove which charges are legitimate.

9) Be careful about how often you use your debit card. If you debit card is hacked, thieves will be stealing your money, and debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards. Make sure you know what kind of protection your account will offer.

10) Consider having a "dirty" credit card. This card would be used for all public transaction and online purchases. Ideally, you can pay it off each month, and
if it's hacked you'll have better protection. Use your debit card for getting cash, and use other credit cards for major purchases.

11) Change your passwords on financial accounts frequently. Also, make sure you create "strong" passwords that will not be easily guessed.

12) When you hear about a date breach, share that information with family and friends, so they can also follow these steps to protect themselves.