It appears that Target wasn’t the only retailer to suffer a credit card breach during the holiday shopping season. It’s being reported that the upscale retailer Neiman Marcus has had an unknown number of customer credit and debit cards exposed by hackers in mid-December, and the retailer is currently working in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service to investigate the breach. It doesn’t appear that any purchases made with credit cards on the online store was compromised, only cards used at retail outlets. Neiman Marcus says that they are currently attempting to notify those customers whose credit cards the retailer knows have been fraudulently used after a purchase made at a Neiman Marcus store. While the extent of this breach is still unknown, it would be wise to take some basic steps to protect both your credit and debit cards if you shopped at Neiman Marcus this holiday season.
Take Proactive Steps
A lot of people decide not to take any action when situations like this occur because they see the fault being that of the retailer and not themselves. While this is true, and the consumer has protection when incidents like this happen under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), that doesn’t mean that you’ll escape without any costs. The problem is that the compromised data might not stop with only fraudulent transactions, and it could potentially end with identity theft. If this happens, there can be hundreds of dollars worth of costs to the consumer to try and get everything straightened out. With this in mind, it makes sense to be overly cautious before anything happens so that you don’t have to deal with the frustration, cost and wasted time that will take place if the information gets into the wrong hands.
Consider Cancelling Credit Cards
If you cancelled your credit or debit cards due to the Target data compromise, then you’ve already taken care of the issue since the two breaches appear to have happened about the same time. If you didn’t shop at Target, but did at Neiman Marcus, then you should seriously consider cancelling your credit card and get a new one. No matter what the details ultimately reveal, this is the safest course of action. If you do decide to cancel, don’t forget to contact all businesses where you have automatic payments on that card. The good news is that cancelling your credit card shouldn’t lower your credit score in this situation.
Change Debit Card PIN
For those who used a debit card at Neiman Marcus, the first thing to do is to immediately change the PIN number on the card. Even if it comes out that debit card pin numbers weren’t compromised, this is the safest course of action to take. You can check your bank’s website where you may be able to change your PIN. If you can’t do it on the website, you can do it at your local branch or over the phone. Again, this is a small inconvenience today that can save a lot of frustration, time and money in the future.
Start Monitoring Card Transactions
If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to represent Neiman Marcus or your credit card company, never give them any personal information such as your credit card number or address.
Another important step to take is to begin carefully inspecting your statements looking for anything that is unusual or transactions you don’t understand. It’s especially important to look for small transactions which are not yours. This is because it’s common for those with stolen credit cards to test cards before making larger purchases. They’ll usually make a small purchase with the card such as a snack at a convenience store. If the card is approved, then they know that they can make larger purchases on it without attracting suspicion. If the card is denied, then they just pay for the purchase with cash and know that the card is not good. By first making a small transaction, it helps them avoid being caught and attracting unwanted attention. By spotting the small transactions quickly, you can avoid the larger transactions from taking place. If you see any charges that are unusual, it’s important to immediately contact your credit card company and let them know what’s going on.
Follow the Story
There’s still a lot that isn’t known about this credit card security breach, and much more detailed information should be coming out in the coming days and weeks. Since the story is still developing, how bad the breach was and exactly what type of information the criminals were able to access is still unknown. While being overly safe by cancelling and getting new credit cards is the best course of action, it can be a pain and take some time notifying all the companies that use the card for automatic payments. If you decide to defer, then it’s even more important to closely follow this story. As you learn more about what exactly took place, it’ll put you in a better position to know what steps are important for you to take to minimize your exposure.
Pull Your Credit Report
This is something that you should be doing on a yearly basis anyway, but you should take special care to make sure to do it if there has been any chance that your credit card information has been compromised. You’re allowed to see your credit report at no cost from the three main credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each year through the site AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, if your credit card information has been compromised, you are also allowed to access your credit report for free to look for fraudulent activity. Once you get your credit reports, thoroughly examined them to see if there are any discrepancies or unauthorized activity. If you find anything, immediately report this to the credit agency so that it can be corrected.
Watch for Scams
Once something hits the news, scam artists try to take full advantage of the panic and misinformation to their advantage. This is why it’s important to understand as much as possible about what’s taken place. If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to represent Neiman Marcus or your credit card company, never give them any personal information such as your credit card number or address. They’ll never ask you for this information. If you’re unsure if someone is legitimate, ask for their name and employee number. Once you have this, hang up and call the main company phone number and ask for that person. If they are real, you will be hooked to their phone.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Gray)