How to Protect Yourself from a Credit Card Hack

by | May 13, 2014 | Credit Tips, Financial Fixes | 0 comments

Considering there are over 70 million potential victims of the Target credit card hack, you should probably keep reading–
After the database hack, Target warned its customers that criminals now have three ways to make contact with them and so warned their customers to expect fake phone calls, emails and letters. They also reminded customers that they might be asked for personal information and/or be told to click on certain links.

Target’s advice was: don’t believe it, even if it looks official or appears to have come directly from Target itself. While this is good advice, it simply isn’t enough to alleviate you from becoming a potential victim of crime as a result of the hack.

There were also some 43 million credit and debit cards that may have been affected by the breach that occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. For this problem Target offered customers a free credit monitoring service. Unfortunately, this will only serve to warn after (sometimes irreversible) damage has been done to your credit profile.

These two distinct issues need be dealt with proactively and most certainly involve more than simply watching for suspicious letters, emails and phone calls and looking for potential problems to be manifested on a credit monitoring service after the fact.

Let’s look at both issues and then explore what might prove to be the most useful endeavors to protect you from these problems.

Identity Theft

The first concern is identity theft, which is becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Armed with your personal information, criminals have no real need to contact you via phone, mail or email. Why should they? There is an enormous amount of illegal gain to be enjoyed without ever contacting you because they already possess everything they need to break the law, victimize, and cause you untold grief. So, criminals armed with your personal information probably may not bother corresponding with you.

Instead, your personal information is simply sold to PIBs (Personal Information Brokers). This is not a company you can look up, this is the name given to part of a syndicated crime network. PIBs in turn, sell your data to others who use the information for identity theft crime. The biggest crime dealing with identity theft currently is tax refunds, which is costing the government billions of dollars and the IRS huge headaches.

But the vast majority who purchase your information from PIBs may use it to open a credit card account, a loan, a utility account or some other service that will result in debt that you will be made responsible for. These will always be in another locale than where you live, usually in another state. This is what you would be looking for when you check your credit report from the credit monitoring service that Target provides. If you see new addresses where you never lived and or accounts that you never opened, you have already been victimized. Sadly, it can take months for these to show up as collections on your credit profile.

Compromised Debit or Credit Card

Those of you who have had your debit and credit card compromised are at risk in another way. The obvious is your card will be used by someone other than yourself. Of course, the Target victims haven’t lost their literal cards, but is there still a risk?

Absolutely. One way your card information can be used is on the internet. If criminals have your email and credit or debit card information, they could pose as you on commercial websites. Some online services and marketplaces allow hackers to bypass your password if they know the last four digits of your payment card.

Also, new internet merchant accounts can and will be opened. In just a matter of a few moments, your debit or credit card can be charged for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars with just a few transactions.

Use of your card information in this manner can be insidious. One of our clients who lost several hundred dollars didn’t even realize he had been victimized because the theft resulted from small transaction amounts with Itunes and took place over the course of about 20 months!

Protecting Yourself

So, whether or not you are a victim of the Target hack, what should you do if you suspect that your personal information has fallen into the wrong hands? What should you do if you suspect someone may have your debit or credit card information?

Both problems can be dealt with utilizing these steps:

  1. Either close your credit card and debit card account or at least have new cards with different account numbers issued. Do not wait to see if something bad is going to happen. Assume that it will and cancel the cards.
  2. File for and request a police report. You do this by going to your local police department and indicate to them that you were part of the Target hack and suspect identity theft. File your report away and don’t lose it. You will need this later to resolve any issues that show up on your credit profile.
  3. Contact the three major credit bureaus; Equifax, TransUnion and Experian and request that a fraud alert be put onto your credit profile. This costs nothing but can help out a great deal if later you need to contest an entry on your report.
  4. You can easily prevent anyone from using your information to open accounts in your name that you have not authorized by putting a freeze on your credit. This too is done by contacting the credit bureaus. It costs $30 (ten dollars for each bureau) and can be done on-line. You can also get this service at no cost but you will need to send them copies of your police report that you got in step 2. It may be better to pay the $30 because time is so important right now.
  5. Now you can begin checking your credit using Target’s or another monitoring service.

We hope this information helps you if you have been a victim of the Target credit card hack, or another credit card hack. Remember that you can always use a reliable credit repair company like us to help you through the process and make sure your credit score is not negatively affected.