After several major data security breaches from cyber-thieves at Target, Home Depot, eBay and other large retailers, consumers need to be more vigilant than ever in protecting themselves from being victimized.
Consumer credit card information is like gold to cyber-thieves and when 70 million Target customers’ information is compromised, the damages add up.
Retailers must do more to protect their customers from being hacked, but consumers also need to be diligent about protecting themselves as well.
Easy ways to protect your personal information:
Monitor your Transactions. Review your credit and debit card statements monthly and check your credit report at least annually. Federal law requires each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to provide one free credit report per year.
You can also purchase credit-monitoring services that will alert you if there is a change to your credit history.
Sign up for Alerts. Many credit companies provide fraud alerts free of charge. If your credit card company offers it, take full advantage of any alert program offered, it can be a very effective way to protect yourself from fraud.
Online Precautions. Always be wary of any requests for your credit card information, account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, or birth date. A real credit card company or bank alert will never ask you to send this information over email.
Also, make sure to keep your operating system, browser, and anti-virus software up-to-date; install a personal firewall; and use strong passwords and change them frequently. Never give your credit card number to a site without displayed that there is “SSL” (Secure Sockets Protection), protection. SSL is a standard security technology that establishes an encrypted link between a web server and a browser.
Get Credit Cards with Fraud Protection. Select a credit card that offers fraud protection without additional fees. This will protect you and make sure you are not held liable for unauthorized purchases on your account.
If you are notified that your information has been jeopardized, immediately request a new card and employ all of the means above to keep an eye on your accounts. If you learn your identity is being used fraudulently, place a fraud alert on your name and identity by contacting the Federal Trade Commission and the three national credit-reporting organizations. The sooner you report the incident, the better chance you have of minimizing damage to your credit score.
Until retailers can make sure their information is protected, be sure to protect yourself.