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Vigilance and safeguards can fight credit card theft

Dec 15

Written by: Tuesday, December 15, 2015 6:57:01 PM 

Cybersecurity essential whenever using Internet

If you're not among the tens of millions of American consumers who have had their credit cards and other personal information breached in the last few months, you're in the shrinking minority.

Earlier in the year, data breaches occurred at Target, Michael's and Neiman Marcus, but just within the past two months, the same card-stealing malware — or variants of it — have been found at Home Depot, Kmart and Staples.

Forty million consumers were hit by the Target breach, 56 million at Home Depot. We don't know the damage at Kmart and Staples yet, but it's bound to be in the same ballpark.

With new breaches occurring nearly every week, what should consumers do to protect themselves? Banks can't issue new credit cards often enough to keep pace with the incidents, so it is increasingly the burden of consumers to protect themselves from these threats.

Here are some tips:

If you have a choice between using a debit card and a credit card, use the credit card. Credit cards have better protections against fraud, and they have the added benefit of not taking your money at the time of purchase. With a credit card, the interest on fraudulent charges does not accrue until the situation is ironed out.

Subscribe to credit monitoring alert services. There are several free services, like Credit Karma, but many paid services are worth evaluating as well. Early detection of fraudulent credit activity is key to minimizing the damage of identity theft.

» Check your credit report frequently. You are entitled to a free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. You just have to visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.

» Use cash. The ultimate defense against credit card fraud is not to use one. Use cash where you can and your risk will be reduced dramatically.

While it's getting harder and harder to avoid credit card theft and identity theft, with some diligence you can detect them early enough to limit the damage to your credit score and to your checkbook.

Hawaiian Telcom Information Security Director Beau Monday is a local cybersecurity expert. Reach him at Beau.Monday@hawaiiantel.com.

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