Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said on Thursday that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers.
Better Business Bureau serving The Fall Line Corridor offers up the following suggestions for consumers concerned that their credit or debit cards may have been compromised by a data breach:
• Stay calm. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.
• Check the website of the company that was breached for the latest information. Type the company name directly into your browser. Do NOT click on a link from an email or social media message.
• If a credit card has been compromised, you will likely hear from the bank or card-issuer first. If you have questions, call the customer service number on your card.
• Consider putting a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies (go.bbb.org/creditfreeze). A credit freeze will prevent anyone from accessing your credit report or scores. This means you cannot apply for new credit without lifting the freeze. A fraud alert flags your account but does not automatically halt new credit being opened in your name.
• AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a free annual credit report. Be wary of ads, emails, and social media messages for other services. Everyone should check their credit reports annually, whether or not they have been the victim of a data breach.
If your credit card(s) has been breached:
• Monitor your credit card statements carefully (go online; don’t wait for the paper statement).
• If you see a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately so the charge can be reversed and a new card issued.
• Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and which ones you did not.
If your debit card has been breached:
• Do all of the above as for credit cards, but pay very careful attention to your account. Debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards, and debit transactions withdraw funds directly from your bank account.
• Contact your bank for more information or if you want to preemptively request a new debit card or put a security block on your account.
• Beware of scammers who may purport to be from the retailer, your bank, or your credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information, or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware onto your computer.
For all businesses that collect customer information:
• Make sure you protect your customers’ data. Data breaches can happen to any business.
• Check out BBB’s online guide Data Security – Made Simpler for free information on how to create a data security plan.
Kelvin Collins is President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The Better Business Bureau sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB by visiting bbb.org, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 800-763-4222.