After the huge credit and debit card breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus, it’s time for some consumer action.
While no Social Security numbers have been hacked so far, the retailers said, data including card numbers, expiration dates, three-digit security codes, names, mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of about one-third of the U.S. population have been exposed.
Even if you don’t have one of those retailers’ credit or debit cards, you may have been exposed when you used your bank debit card at one of the stores, said Bill Hardekopf, president of LowCards.com.
That’s why Chase announced that it’s replacing 2 million debit cards for its clients and Citibank is replacing all its debit cards, he said.
“The debit card is a gateway to your bank account,” he said. “If I had shopped at one of those stores with my debit card, I would get it replaced.”
Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the Consumer Federation of America, said people who used their credit or debit cards at Target during the holidays should ask for new accounts.
“Why wait to see if there is fraudulent activity on your account? Consumers should be proactive to protect themselves,” Grant said. Even with limited liability, “dealing with fraud after the fact can be a hassle, especially for debit card holders whose bank accounts have been raided by crooks.”
Besides getting new account numbers, people should consider taking these nine other steps recommended by consumer advocates.
SplashData recommends creating more secure passwords that are easy to recall by using passphrases — short, random words separated by spaces or other characters, such as “smiles_light_skip?”
Avoid using the same username/password combination for multiple websites and consider using a password management app like SplashIDsafe, 1Password or Diceware.
In Texas, people can apply online for a security freeze at the three bureau websites. The cost for all three in Texas is $30.38. It’s free if you can prove that you’re a victim of ID theft.
One problem with the alert is that you may not be available when a company calls, and a new false account may be opened without your approval. And some companies advertise that they open accounts without checking credit reports, Grant said.
Don’t wait till you’re a victim. Take action now.