Protect yourself from identity theft after a data breach

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NEW YORK — It’s an almost weekly occurrence: On Tuesday, Goodwill said its computer systems may have been hacked, leading to the possible theft of customers’ credit and debit card information.

As data breaches become increasingly common, consumers don’t often know what to do when a company they’ve done business with experiences a breach.

Here are five ways you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft — even if your data have been compromised.

1. Monitor your bank statements. The easiest and most effective way to make sure someone hasn’t made fraudulent charges to your account is to keep a close tab on your bank statements.

Gartner analyst Avivah Litan recommends checking at least once a month. If you find something that doesn’t seem right, call your bank right away.

2. Use a credit card, not a debit card. Government regulations protect you from liability for fraudulent charges over $50 when you use a credit card or a debit card with a signature, not a pin number. But if you use a debit card with a pin, the regulations are murkier, and you may end up being liable for some charges.

3. Get free credit monitoring. The government offers three free credit checks a year. The reports will show if any loans or new credit cards have been taken out in your name.

Here’s where to find free credit reports: ​www.annualcreditreport.com/​index.action. Also, companies that have had a data breach often offer to pay for customers’ credit monitoring.

4. Bank smarter. Many banks offer a service that sends an email alert when any major changes — or charges — are made to a customer’s account.

If you want to be extra cautious, don’t make money transfers online or pay bills electronically — use a check. Also, experts recommend changing your passwords often.

5. Don’t rely on companies. Don’t depend on companies to let you know if your data have been stolen.

If you want to protect yourself, it’s best to take matters into your own hands.

United States - North America

First Published July 24, 2014 10:23 PM


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