The massive data breach at Target, which exposed the sensitive personal and financial information of its customers, has received a tremendous amount of media attention. Unfortunately, this incident is just the latest in a long line of cyber security breaches that have hit U.S. retailers in recent months. This one just received more attention. Target initially reported that the stolen information included credit and debit card numbers, CVV codes (the three-digit security code on the back of credit cards), customer names, and card expiration dates for as many as 40 million customer accounts at the stores’ physical locations. Subsequently Target revealed that personal consumer data was also stolen for at least 70 million customers, including sensitive information such as names, physical addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. Now those numbers are more than 110 million.
After Target was hacked, customers’ data immediately started selling on black markets operating on the Internet. Criminals who purchase the data often use the information to create a counterfeit version of the consumer’s card or use the information to make purchases online or over the phone. Scammers can also use the hacked data to piece together customers’ stolen information for identity theft. According to the Neilson Report, in the past 10 years credit and debit card fraud has increased exponentially, costing consumers more than $11.3 billion in losses in 2013.
Many consumers are rightfully concerned and left wondering if there are any steps they can take to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft. Generally under the Truth in Lending Act, the cap for liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card is $50. In contrast, debit card users may be more at risk of being held liable for fraudulent charges. Under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, if your debit card or ATM card is lost or stolen or you find an unauthorized purchase on your checking or savings account, your maximum liability is only limited to $50 if you notify your bank within two business days. But, if you wait more than two business days, your debit/ATM card losses under the law could go up to $500, or perhaps much more. Regardless, since your bank or institution may further limit your losses, so it’s important to check your policy with your card issuer.
The best way for a person to protect against identity theft is by closely monitoring his or her credit card bills, bank statements, and free credit reports. You should immediately report any suspected fraud or unusual activity to your bank or institution and also to law enforcement. In addition, folks must be very cautious of unexpected emails or phone calls asking to verify their card information. Scammers attempt to make phone calls and emails look like they originate from a well-known institution in order to trick individuals into giving out account information.
Source: FDIC Consumer News
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