The recent credit card breach that took place between November 27 and December 15, 2013 affected about 40 million Target customers. Hackers stole bank information such as customer names, card numbers, expiration dates and security codes. College students can protect their credit card accounts by following some simple, but effective tips.
Credit card holders are not financially responsible for money lost as a result of the hacking. That responsibility falls to the stores and banks. Larger banks are quickly replacing customers’ compromised cards with new ones. But some smaller banks without the infrastructure or cash on hand to deal quickly with the crisis could be severely compromised if hackers take money from accounts. Some are taking the drastic step of blocking all transactions on compromised cards, forcing customers to use other means of paying day-to-day bills, such as using cash and checks. Other small banks are making customers call the bank to approve purchases beforehand.
Credit card chip and PIN
The United States still uses the ever more hackable magnetic strip credit cards, while Europe and Asia use the more secure chip and PIN security system, also known as EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa).
With chip and PIN, “cards are embedded with chips and a cardholder must put in their pin or sign for each transaction to be approved… [This] makes it much harder for credit card hackers and fraudsters to steal from consumers since, rather than just stealing the information contained in a card’s magnetic strip, they’d have to know the carrier’s pin number as well,” reported in “US credit cards with smart chip technology” posted May 30, 2013 on ThePointsGuy.com.
Tips for what you can do
Monitor your credit card activity weekly. Go online or call your card’s 800 number and check your statement for any purchases that are unauthorized.
Also check the credit reporting agencies to see if there has been any fraudulent activity. You can check your credit rating once per year for free from each of the agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
Load your bank and credit card apps onto your phone so you can track your accounts quickly to see if there is any unauthorized activity.
Sign up for ID-theft protection. Several companies and banks offer identity theft protection plans that monitor your credit, notify you of aberrations in your credit habit, and offer assistance to fix your credit if something happens.
“If you don’t have identity theft coverage, report the suspicious activity to the appropriate institution and request a new account number as well as place a fraud alert notice on your account. Placing a fraud alert on your account makes it more difficult for new accounts in your name to be opened,” advises Leah Knapp in “Who’s at risk for ID theft? More and more, it’s college students” posted August 27, 2013 on ErieSense.com.
If you received a replacement credit card for a compromised one, remember to visit all the places you have your card on file for automatic withdrawal—utility bills, online stores, music and TV services, your local bank, electronic toll service, etc.
If you travel far from home, call your credit card company and let them know you will be using your card in an unfamiliar place. Otherwise they might flag the purchase as fraud and deny the transaction.
Change your PIN periodically, and use a number others can’t guess.
Use cash more often. Relying on credit or debit all the time may not be a good habit. Stores still take the green stuff.
When in doubt, choose credit over debit. “Using a dedicated credit card for point-of-sale purchases reduces risk because it is easier to have charges dismissed or reversed on a credit card,” reported by Robert Anglen, Peter Corbett and Russ Wiles in “Breach of 40 million Target shoppers’ data latest ID-theft disaster,” in Arizona Central posted December 19, 2013.
When in doubt, use your credit card online instead of in-store. Online retailers take cyber security seriously.
Limit the number of unique places that you use your credit card or keep it on file. Shop at the same places to minimize exposure of your card information.
Have you changed your credit card use because of the Target breach?