DETROIT – Data breaches are common, especially among major food chains and larger retailers.
Working with the Better Business Bureau, Help Me Hank has come up with these guidelines to help you protect your credit or debit cards before, or after, you suspect they've been involved in a breach.
Be proactive about protecting information
It's up to you to be proactive and take steps to protect yourself. The thieves might get your information, but if you protect and monitor all of your accounts, there's not much they can do with those important numbers.
If you think you’re a victim of a cyber breach:
- Find out what was stolen.
The least sensitive information is your name and address. That can be found in a phone book and isn’t that useful to cybercriminals.
The sensitive information is your email address, date of birth and payment card account numbers. Stolen email addresses can result in an increase in spam as well, which means you’ll be more susceptible to phishing emails.
The most sensitive thing to be stolen is your Social Security number, online passwords and financial account numbers.
- Change all the affected passwords.
If you use the same password for any other accounts, change those too. Make up a new, stronger password for each account. Don't reuse the password for a second account. That way, you'll be limiting the damage next time there's a data breach.
- Contact the bank or financial organization.
If a payment card number -- debit or credit -- has been stolen contact the bank or organization that issued the card. Make sure you speak to a real person. Explain that your account is at risk of fraud. They will then place an alert on your card, and in most cases, issue you a new one. In the United States, federal rules limit the customer's liability for fraud. If you alert the banks or card issuers before any fraudulent transactions take place, you're covered.
- Sign up for a monitoring service and alerts.
Many services, both paid and free, will help monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity. For fees that range from $15 to $30 per month, full-fledged identity protection services will monitor your accounts with the credit bureaus, and often watch for identity theft and stolen credit cards as well. Your bank might also have a service that alerts you of suspicious activity on your phone or throw email. It’s always a good idea to sign up for those.