In the wake of the Target security breach that put more than 70 million customers at risk for identity theft, consumers are realizing it’s more important than ever to monitor financial accounts and be careful about sharing personal information with retailers.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, it’s imperative you take action right away. According to the latest report from the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft accounted for 18 percent of consumer complaints in 2012 alone, and about 85 percent of identity theft incidents involved fraudulent use of credit card information.
Here are six things you must do after hackers steal your credit card information:
1. Call the credit card company. Whether you suspect suspicious activity on your account or you have misplaced a credit card, make sure to contact your credit card issuer directly to report the situation. Most companies will work with you to track down the fraudulent activity and monitor your account. Reporting unauthorized charges sooner than later will also put you in a better position to have those charges refunded. Review your credit card company’s policies for more information about unauthorized activity and your rights as a cardholder.
2. Contact the credit bureaus. If your stolen credit card information has been shared before you realized there was a problem, your credit score may already be in trouble. When you suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, call one of the credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – to report the situation so it can put an alert on your account. This process might make it easier for investigators to track down the guilty party.
3. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can submit a report about the situation directly with the FTC by completing an Identity Theft Affidavit. First, you will need to file a police report. Then, submit the police report along with the Identity Theft Affidavit to the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. After completing the report, you will be given a complaint reference number that you can use to update information at any time.
4. Change account information on shopping websites. When your credit card information has been compromised, you need to do everything possible to control where your credit card number is currently shared. If your credit card is linked to any online retail stores or bill pay sites, go through each account and remove linked information as soon as possible so that any future purchases can only be made by manually entering credit card information.
5. Try a credit monitoring service. Signing up for a credit monitoring service may give you some peace of mind in the wake of a compromised account. Credit monitoring services track your credit reports and inform you of any suspicious activity immediately. Just do some research first to make sure you are working with a company that has a solid reputation.
6. Talk to your bank. Even if your credit cards are not directly linked to a bank account, it may be a good idea to inform your bank that you have been a victim of identity theft. Your financial institutions may be more vigilant about monitoring your accounts and reporting any suspicious activity.
Remember that identity thieves can do more damage than using your credit card information to fund a shopping spree – some may use your personal information to compromise other accounts or set up new accounts under your name. Review all statements and banking information in detail, and contact the appropriate agencies as soon as you think there might be a problem.