Have you had your credit card “hacked”? Meaning, did you find some charges on a bill that weren’t yours? Or did your credit card bank contact you about some unusual activity in your account? Not only has this happened to me in the last few months, but in speaking with friends and colleagues, it seems to be happening more and more frequently.
As common as this sort of crime is, it’s also a form of identity theft. Someone, other than you, is benefitting from your access to credit to make purchases. Credit card fraud is so rampant that even if you report it to the bank and get the charges removed from your account, the likelihood that law enforcement will track the bad guys down is pretty low. Your card might be in California, but the bad guys might be in New York. The difficulties for the different agencies to work together trumps the benefit of finding the small time crooks that are USUALLY responsible. I’ve just spoken with a local police detective whose own credit card was misused and even he isn’t trying to track the perpetrators down.
A data breach is different. It usually involves the data of thousands or millions of people. It can include sensitive corporate information such as intellectual property, passwords, emails and the like. The ramifications from a single data breach can echo through a group or an organization for many years. And if your consumer information is part of a data breach, you’re often left to wonder, am I to blame? Should I stop doing something, like shopping online or using the Internet for email? Data breaches occur for a variety of reasons but it’s important to remember that you are a victim, just as the data holder is and we should never blame the victim when a crime occurs.
So if you are concerned that yours was among the credit cards accessed in a recent data processing hack, you’ll want to rely on the bank that issued your card to advise you of the next steps to take. Though notification rules vary by state, you’ll usually receive written notice if your credit card was hacked. You may also receive credit monitoring services and a new card number to use. The main thing is don't panic, but stay informed. Monitor the news stories and visit your online account site for your credit card. Pay attention to the charges on your account, just as you usually do.