How to Protect Yourself from the California DMV Credit Card Information Breach

Credit card breach at the California DMV
In the latest possible credit card breach, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is investigating whether their credit card system has been compromised by hackers. This comes on the heels of other high-profile credit card system breaches at retail outlets such as Target and Neiman Marcus. This highlights that your credit card information may be vulnerable anyplace that you use it, even at a government agency. Law enforcement agencies contacted the California DMV warning them that a possible security breach had taken place with their credit card processing services. The DMV is working with both state and federal law enforcement to investigate the possible security breach, including a forensic review of all of their computer systems.

In light of this information, MasterCard has sent out alerts to banks which issue its credit cards that a potential breach has taken place. Both MasterCard and Visa announced a new initiative earlier this month to increase credit card payment security, which includes expanding the use of chip technology in the US. It currently is not clear how many credit cards may have been compromised, or exactly what information may have been stolen.

If you have used a credit card at the California DMV in the past, here are a number of steps that you can take to help protect your financial information:

Don’t Wait

Be proactive if you have used your credit card at the California DMV, and assume that it has been compromised even though the security breach has not yet been confirmed. The longer you wait, the bigger the chance that your credit card information will be misused if there has been a breach of information. Both the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), give you some protection from situations like this where your credit card data may have been stolen. While you are not at fault for the data breach, and you shouldn’t be liable for any transactions that take place on your card, there still can be some serious pain if your credit card data has been compromised. It’s therefore best not to wait around, but be overly cautious and take action so that you can prevent the possibility of a lot of wasted time, headaches, and frustration.

Cancel Your Card

Err on the side of caution and cancel any credit card that you may have recently used at the California DMV. Take this action as soon as possible. Be aware that by taking this action, you won’t be able to use the credit card until the new one arrives. This should only take a couple of days, but consider whether or not you will need to use it during that time. You will also need to contact the companies that use the credit card for automatic payments. While this process can be a time-consuming inconvenience, it’s worthwhile doing. Taking this step now will be much less time-consuming than if your credit card is used to make fraudulent transactions. Canceling your credit card will not lower your credit score.

Monitor Your Credit Card Transactions

If you receive a call or email that claims to be from the California DMV or your credit card company about this fraud, be suspicious.

For the rest of the year, take the time to thoroughly look over all your credit card statements to see if there are any transactions that you did not make. Take special care to look for small transactions from retailers where you do not shop. It’s a common practice for thieves to test a stolen credit card before they try to make bigger purchases. They test the card by putting a small transaction on it to see if it will go through, so that they know the credit card is still active. They may do this by making a inexpensive music download purchase online, or buying a few snacks at a gas station or drugstore. While reviewing your statement, if you come across any charges that seem suspicious, be sure to immediately contact your credit card company with this information.

Follow this Story

The California DMV and law enforcement officials are still trying to determine exactly what took place. There should be quite a bit of new information that comes out about this in the coming days and weeks. Be sure to follow the story so that you will know exactly what type of data has been stolen and during what time period the data breach took place. By knowing exactly what information has been compromised you put yourself in a position where you can take charge of the situation. Being proactive by canceling your credit card right away should limit most of the the costs of resolving the situation which could end up being a lot more if you wait until fraud on your card has already occurred.

Pull Your Credit Report

If Federal agencies and the California DMV confirmed that credit card information was stolen from their system, you will want to take a look at all of your credit reports. In cases where credit card information has been stolen, you are able to obtain a free credit report from all three of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) under federal law. Review each of the credit reports to determine if there is any activity on them which is not yours. If you find any activity that appears to be fraudulent, report it to the appropriate credit reporting agency so that it can be immediately corrected.

Watch out for Scams

One of the worst aspects of any major fraud that makes the news is that there will be people out there who try to take advantage of this to take even more money from you. If you receive a call or email that claims to be from the California DMV or your credit card company about this fraud, be suspicious. Tell them that you will call them right back using the phone numbers listed on their website, not one that is given to you over the phone. Remember to never give out any credit card information to someone who has called you.

Also, do not click on links in e-mails that you receive that claim to be about this situation, or input any information into a website that is not official. Be aware the con artists may create websites to appear to be real so that they can get you to input valuable information that they can use.

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