For many of us it was a particularly stressful holiday season when Target announced it had been the victim of a computer breach that exposed 40 million credit card numbers and an additional 70 million records containing customer names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Neiman Marcus was involved in the same incident, revealing that 1.1 million credit cards were stolen as a result. The information security community expects to learn that at least six more retailers were breached by the same crew or by using the same methods.
Even if you haven’t formally been notified that your credit card or other information was stolen by hackers, there are a few things you should consider doing to protect yourself:
» Monitor your credit and debit card transactions closely. Scrutinize your bills for any unrecognized charges, no matter how small. Hackers will often push very small charges to verify that the card hasn’t been disabled.
» Replace your cards. It’s good hygiene to replace your credit/debit cards at least every two years, regardless of them being involved in a breach.
» Change your debit card PIN. Like any password, your PIN should be changed regularly. We recommend at least annually.
» Sign up for ID theft protection. Target is offering a year of identity theft protection to anyone affected by the recent breach. Go to creditmonitoring.target.com to get started. ID theft protection is a good idea even if you don’t qualify for the free service through Target.
» Monitor your credit. Everyone should keep a close eye on their credit report. You can get free credit reports once a year by visiting the websites of three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion. You can also sign up for free credit monitoring services, like CreditKarma.com.
» Be wary of anyone contacting you via phone or email, claiming to offer help recovering from this incident. There have been dozens of reports of scams from people trying to bilk victims out of additional money by offering recovery services.
Finally, if you have Target’s REDcard, you can sign up for purchase alerts, which will trigger a notification any time it is used.
With a few simple precautions, you can insulate yourself from future breaches of your credit cards or personal information.
Hawaiian Telcom Information Security Director Beau Monday is a local cybersecurity expert. Reach him at Beau.Monday@hawaiiantel.com.