The number of major chains reporting
breaches of data security since the start of the Christmas holidays continues
to grow with Michaels the latest to announce problems late last week. Almost anyone who uses credit or debit cards
has to worry that their personal or credit information has been
compromised. Some stores have even
reported thefts of data from customer email or mailing lists. Today the Consumer
Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published tips to help consumers protect
themselves from fraud and pointing them toward help should they have a problem.
"Consumer financial products often involve significant
amounts of consumer data," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "In light of
recent data breaches, we want to be sure that consumers know how to protect
themselves and where to turn if they do suspect fraud."
The CFPB advisory calls payment cards - credit and debit
cards including prepaid versions - as among the most commonly used consumer
financial products. Nearly three-quarters
of Americans have at least one credit card and debit cards are used even more
frequently for purchases. The recent
data breaches may have exposed millions of payment card accounts to potential
fraud and millions of consumers could have had personal information stolen
separately from card information.
CFPB offers the following guidance to help consumers protect
themselves from data theft:
Review accounts regularly. Check frequently on-line if possible, but at
a minimum review monthly printed statements.
CFPB said thieves often test accounts by making small purchases so watch for and report these
as well as major expenditures. Problems
can occur months after an actual data breach so continued vigilance is
Consumers should consider changing
their pin numbers even if there is no indication they were stolen.
Alert the bank or card provider immediately
if fraud is suspected. Under federal law
the consumer is generally not responsible for unauthorized debits or charges as
long as they are reported quickly.
Keep any evidence of fraud and
record when and how it was reported it to the card provider. Follow-up to be sure proper corrections are
Be alert for phishing. A legitimate bank or card provider will never
ask for account information by mail or email.
If requests for card numbers, pin numbers, Social Security numbers, or
other information is requested report it to the card provider. If an email directs a consumer to a website
where information is requested be aware that site may not be legitimate and
contact the provider.
CFPB also reminded consumers that its staff is available to
assist consumers if they are not satisfied with how their own bank or card
provider responds to a report of fraudulent card use. Complaints can be submitted by phone at (855)
411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at (855) 729-CFPB (2372), by fax at
(855) 237-2392, or online at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint