What If My Credit Card or Debit Card Information Has Been Compromised?

The recent breach of customer information through Target has made the news in the past few years. It is one of the largest breaches on record to date. However, credit card information is breached and stolen on a regular basis. Usually we do not hear about it because it is not as large of a breach. If you have ever received a letter from your bank that your debit card or credit card needs to be replaced because information has been compromised, then you have had it happen to you. Generally the bank is informed by the business with the breach and then determines whether or not to issue you a new card. Here are the steps you should take on a regular basis to help protect you in this situation, as well as monitoring for identity theft.

1
Use Your Card Wisely

debit-card-compromised.jpg
Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

One of the most important things you can do is to only use your card at trusted sites. This does not guarantee that something will not happen, but it does lower your risk. Before you enter your card information, always be sure that the site is secure. Although this has become second nature for many people, it is still something you should be aware of and do on a regular basis. You can tell if if a site is secure by the https instead of http. If you are not sure about a site, take the time to research it for reviews to make sure there are no issues. Additionally, you should be on the look out for skimmers that are put into ATMs or or other places you use your card, and thieves use this to collect your card information. If something does not look right at an ATM do not use it. 

2
Monitor Your Accounts

Banks and credit card companies give you a window to report fraudulent activity on your account. If you do not report it within the time frame, then you become responsible for the charge. They ask you to report your card stolen within 24 hours of realizing it. However, you can dispute individual charges after they appear on your statement for a set period of time, usually at least a month, but you will need to check with your bank’s policy to know the time period for your accounts. By monitoring the transactions on your cards daily or weekly, you can catch the problem more quickly and call the bank to stop unauthorized charges. This means less headache for you in the future. You should be balancing your account to every statement at the very least. Some banks will let you see pending charges when you monitor your account. these can be stopped before they go through completely. 

3
Check Your Credit Report

Sometimes hackers will use the information they have stolen to steal your identity. This means that the fraudulent activity will not show up on your current accounts, because they will open new accounts under your name. When you monitor your credit report, you can catch this activity. You are allowed to pull a credit report from each of the three agencies each year for free. If you space these every four months, you can monitor your credit throughout the year. If you find that you have had something happen, you can put a freeze on your credit report, which means the banks have to contact you directly before opening an account. It alerts them that you have been the victim of identity theft. 

4
Reporting Fraudulent Activity

When you find activity that is not you either with an account or your credit report, you need to dispute the item. You will need to contact the bank involved and tell them there has been fraudulent activity. Then you will need to file a police report. The bank may require a copy of this report to reverse the charges or to close down the fraudulent account. This can be a time consuming and extensive process, and you need to be prepared to follow through. If there is an error on your credit report, you need to contact both the report and the credit agencies to have the changes made to your report. Since this does take a few months for everything to process, if you are looking to buy a house in the next year, you really need to be on top of your credit report to make sure that nothing like this happens.  You should request a new credit or debit card if you know that the number has been used somewhere else. 

5
Credit Monitoring Services

Many credit card companies will offer credit monitoring services. Some insurance agencies will offer something similar or identity theft insurance. This can be expensive, and you want to make sure you clearly understand exactly what you are paying for. It can be helpful to have someone on your side who will help you sort through the mess if your identity is stolen. Many people will sign up for this after they deal with identity theft, but getting it before that happens will save you the hassle of dealing with it on your own.