October 9, 2014

News You Can Use: Credit Card Conundrums

We’ve recently become aware of yet another major security breach at a high-volume retailer. This time, the victim was Home Depot, which recently admitted that as many as 56,000,000 credit and debit cards may have been compromised. But the real victims could be the customers who used those cards, who could suffer anything from unauthorized charges on their cards to identity theft.

Nola.com recently published a helpful article listing 5 ways individuals can protect themselves from the effects of breaches such as these. (For the entire article, go to http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2014/09/home_depot_data_breach_5_ways.html).

  1. Use other payment technologies, such as Pay Pal or the Apple Pay app. These technologies store your credit card information so that it’s not available to the retailers. Some stores also offer pre-loaded cards that you can use instead of credit cards (of course, you pay for these up front).
  2. Process cards as credit rather than debit. Using your PIN to complete a debit card transaction potentially exposes that PIN to hackers, who can do more damage with your PIN than without it.
  3. Watch for e-mail scams. This is a prime time for phishing, which is the practice of sending e-mails with the intent to capture personal information such as credit card numbers, etc. These e-mails may offer free credit monitoring to “protect” you from breaches such as the Home Depot breach. Never click on links in these e-mails, as the act of clicking on the link can install malware on your computer that could potentially capture and relay your financial information to a hacker.
  4. Reconcile your statements. Check for charges you didn’t make, even small ones. A credit card thief will often try smaller amounts to see if you’re watching, then go for larger amounts later. Regularly retrieve your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  5. Use cash. Any technology is ultimately vulnerable to a good enough hacker. Envelope system, anyone?