Criminals recently took advantage of a weak link at a particular merchant processor, which is an intermediary service between customers and retailers that clears credit cards for purchases. In the course of five weeks, over 1.5 million credit card numbers were stolen from all major cardholders including Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover.
As best as anyone knows, no personal I.D. information was stolen such as name, date of birth, address or social security. They only got the credit card numbers. However, just having the numbers will allow the criminals to run charges to your account.
We are the last major country still using the 1960’s-era credit card technology that allows cards and accounts to be stolen this easily! Most developed countries use a much more secure system called “chip and pin,” which embeds a computer chip within the card, making it next to impossible to duplicate or use the card.
So what do you need to know to protect yourself?
Banks are being even more diligent than usual in trying to identify suspicious charges as they come in. When they see a suspicious charge they will freeze the account and notify the cardholders.
But you also need to be obsessive with your credit card statements. Manually go over every charge on the bill, big or small, over the next 90 days. If you notice any weird charges on your statement, contact your credit card company immediately and dispute the charge.
Disputes are generally are best done in writing, rather than just a phone call. But most credit issuers now offer an online web-based form for dispute submissions that should prove just as effective as a standard letter.
Stay vigilant, consumers!