What We Saw Last Year in Credit Cards What Happened Last Year in Credit, Debit Cards NEW YORK ( LowCards.com) — Identity theft and actions by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau dominated the credit card headlines last year, including these Top 10 stories:

  • One of the largest data breaches in history took place at Target stores between Black Friday and Dec. 15, the busiest shopping time of the year. The breach may have affected as many as 40 million people who used their credit or debit cards in Target stores throughout the country.
  • Two years after the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency finally got a permanent director. On July 16, the Senate voted 66-34 to confirm Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB. He had been serving as the acting director since January 2012 after being installed by President Barack Obama as a recess appointment. That move angered Republicans, who stalled his nomination for 18 months. Cordray is likely to remain in the post through the completion of Obama's second term in 2016.
  • The CFPB made its presence known under its new director. It began a crackdown on debt collectors, investigating how collectors verify borrowers' information and communicate with consumers. It is also investigating credit card rewards and whether customers are being misled when they sign up for complex credit card reward programs. It started regulating the nation's largest student-loan servicing firms, which manage student accounts, process monthly payments and respond to borrower questions. Finally, the CFPB put its mark on the loose lending that caused the housing crisis, tightening the rules on documentation.
  • In July, federal indictments were handed down on foreign hackers who stole and sold 160 million credit card numbers from more than a dozen companies during the past seven years, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The scheme was run by four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian. The victims in the scheme, which prosecutors said ran from 2005-12, included J.C. Penney , 7-Eleven, JetBlue and Heartland Payment Systems .
  • In May, federal prosecutors charged eight people in New York with cyber attacks on the global financial system. They were called part of an international ring that hacked into a database of prepaid debit cards and stole $45 million from ATMs around the world. Prepaid cards have fewer protections and regulations than credit and debit cards issued by a bank. They do not provide information about credit history or individual behavior, which makes them a good option for people with bad credit or no bank account — but also for thieves.
  • Social Security benefits went paperless in March. In a cost-saving measure, the government started a program in May 2011 to eventually eliminate the paper checks distributed for Social Security, Veteran Affairs, Supplemental Security Income and other government programs. According to Treasury officials, a mailed check costs the government 92 cents more than a payment made by electronic transfer. Eligible recipients were required to move to direct deposits or the prepaid debit cards called "Direct Express" by March 1, 2012.