Last week, Visa and MasterCard both acknowledged Friday that hackers had breached a major player in the payment card processing industry Global Payments, an Atlanta-based firm. Between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25 they estimate that more than 10 million credit and debit card transactions records and up to 1.5 million card numbers in North America. were swiped.
So how do you protect yourself, whether your number was compromised directly (e.g., your wallet was stolen) or indirectly (the place where you purchased the item was hacked and account numbers were stolen)? Here are five tips to organize and protect yourself:
Tip 1: Consistently Check Your Accounts
Personal finance software is a timesaver in that it can gather all transactions from multiple bank and credit cards account issuers into one interface. They are a breeze to use and are not that complicated to setup.
If you've spent the time to setup your accounts for online access, consistently check them. How frequently you review your accounts is a personal choice and should be based on what's best for your lifestyle (weekly or bi-weekly is recommended). Review the vendor, location, and amount on all transactions.
If you're considering using personal finance software, don't waste a lot of time evaluating the pros and cons of different programs. The key is to pick one and actually use it.
Tip 2: Don't Overlook Small Purchases
Thieves will sometimes try to make a small purchase before making a large one. The more frequently you review your accounts, the faster and easier it will be to locate any fraudulent transactions.
Tip 3: Use One Card for All Purchases
It's easier to catch fraud, especially if the transactions occurred on a card that you don't use. Plus this creates a deeper history with your credit card issuer who will have a better grasp of the types of charges you normally make, allowing them to be more proactive in questioning “unusual” charges to your account.
Tip 4: Dispute Charges Immediately
If you are consistently checking your debit and credit card transactions, you'll catch unauthorized charges faster. The faster you catch it, the faster you can alert authorities and your bank. The faster your bank is on alert, the smaller the number of charges that you have to dispute. The smaller the number of charges you have to dispute, the less time you have to waste resolving the problem.
Tip 5: Beware of Phishing Scams
Phishing is when someone sends e-mails claiming to be from legitimate companies in order to persuade unsuspecting recipients to reveal personal information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Phishing scams increase once a major security breach – like this recent Global Payments hack – because consumers have a heightened sense of worry and more likely to fall victim to a phishing scam. These thieves are very sneaky and make their emails look legitimate. Just remember that your bank or credit card issuer will never send an email asking you to verify your account information by clicking on a link. If you have an email that you think is legitimate, your best bet is to call the issuer on the phone using the customer service number printed on the back of your card.