Are You Sure You Weren't The Victim of a Breach?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) If you haven't become a data breach victim, don't celebrate. Your time is coming because this is the season of the breach.
The Target breach, which seized credit card data for holiday shoppers, has compromised some 40 million accounts - many of whose details immediately went on sale in criminal bazaars where thieves pay a few dollars for valid credit card info, slap it on a new card, and they get busy buying on your credit.
Millions more consumers apparently have had their credit card data stolen from Neiman Marcus, which has been tight lipped about details but there is every indication this is a big breach involving millions.
If you are involved, should you freak out? Cut up all your credit cards? There are plenty of precautionary steps to take, said the experts, and you won't always hear them from banks (to whom it costs anywhere from $5 to $50 to replace a single credit card, for instance, and those are expenses many bankers abhor).
Target and Neiman Marcus are just the headline winners. Every day there are smaller breaches at retailers, and this can happen in other ways than credit cards. In December, I was notified that my personal data - including Social Security info - was on two laptops stolen from offices of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield in Newark, N.J. The company said the laptops were password protected but the data was unencrypted.
That made me a prime candidate for identity theft, and who saw that kind of cyber theft coming?
The key to coming out of these incidents financially whole is this: know your rights, no matter how your information is breached, and take the steps you need to take to protect yourself.
Fact: federal law extends different protections to credit card and debit card users. Credit card users face a maximum of $50 liability for unauthorized charges and there is no liability whatsoever once the card issuer is notified of a possible breach.
Debit cards are more problematic. Federal law says you are liable for $50 if you report suspected loss or theft within two days of learning of it. The cap jumps to $500 after two days. After 60 days, there is no cap.
However, there is a footnote to the legalese around both debit and credit cards that says if you suffer losses but the physical card was not lost, you have zero liability and that is what has happened in the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches, where the credit card data appears to have been stolen from their computers.
Does that end your worries? Nope, not when safeguarding your financial health is a top priority.
Yes, the retailers involved in the latest breaches have said their customers will have zero liability - but if you believe your cards were involved in these breaches, go through the motions and call the issuer to notify. Follow up with written notification. The gestures probably are redundant but caution is the route to take.