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I Just Learned That My Credit- and Debit-Card Information Was Part of a Data Breach. What Should I Do?

Now, more than ever, consumers are relying on the convenience of credit and debit cards to make everyday purchases, such as gas and groceries, and to make online purchases. With this convenience, however, comes the risk of having your account information compromised by a data breach.

In recent years, data breaches at major retailers have become commonplace across the United States. Currently, most retailers use the magnetic strips on the backs of credit and debit cards to access account information. Unfortunately, the account information that is held on these magnetic strips is also easily accessed by computer hackers.

While many U.S. banks and financial institutions are in the process of replacing the older magnetic strips with more sophisticated and secure embedded microchips, it will take time for both card issuers and retailers to get up to speed on these latest card security measures.

In the meantime, if you find that your account information is at risk due to a data breach, you should make it a priority to periodically review your credit card and bank account activity. If you typically wait for your monthly statement to arrive in the mail, consider signing up for online access to your accounts–that way you can monitor your accounts as often as needed. If you see suspicious charges or account activity, you should contact your bank or credit-card company as soon as possible.

In most cases, your bank or credit-card company will automatically issue you a new card and card number. If not, request to have new cards and card numbers issued in your name. As an additional precaution, you should also change the PIN associated with the cards.

Whether you will be held liable for the unauthorized charges depends on whether the charges were made to your credit- or debit-card account and how quickly you report them.

For more information on your rights if you are affected by a data breach, visit the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau websites.

Jack V. Butterfield Investment Company is a registered Broker-Dealer, member SIPC