Saturday, January 25, 2014

Recent Data Breach & Some Tips

I was a customer at Target and did my grocery shopping just one week before the news about the data breach. I happen to use Wells Fargo and also have an identity theft protection plan to monitor all my accounts and credit. I set up the ITP when I was traveling to Iceland in 2010. On that trip, I also had a completely different checking account and card that wasn't "linked" to my savings account or main checking account so that if somehow my information was compromised while shopping/eating there, then the only "damage" that might be done would be to my one account and not the others. Ideal for international travel, but after about a year or so, I was simplifying and didn't feel like I needed two checking accounts. Wrong. 

Yesterday, I spent over 2 hours with my bank discussing the incorrect charges on my account and new options. In the end, a secondary checking account was exactly what I decided to do! Thursday afternoon, my bank called me questioning some transactions on my account. I got the message on Friday morning and called them right away. When I looked on my checking account there was a pending transaction from Starbucks here in North Texas for my morning breakfast and then there were two other charges I didn't recognize. The banker on the phone said that those were from a gas station in Atlanta, Georgia! It seems that an ACTUAL CARD with my debit card number was swiped there. 

I canceled that debit card/visa right away and made an appointment to go into a banking location to get a temp. card for use and to discuss option. One customer in the bank at the same time I was there was cleaning up fraud on three different accounts equaling over $2,200! All this background is to tell you what I learned while there just in case you aren't "up" on the latest. 

Target was not the only store 'hit' and a list...A LIST of stores is going to be published soon of places where data was also compromised...other big name stores. In light of this, here are a few tips: 

1. Don't get comfortable yet. Keep checking for transactions on your account that you don't recognize! Right now, it's probably a great idea to pop into your online account DAILY just to take a look and while your memory is fresh of the day before. Most of us do that with social media sites online anyway, so just make it a part of your routine. 

2. Be diligent. Look for small, unusual transactions or amounts with no cents. It seems that initially thieves will 'thump' your account with a small amount first. The two charges on my account were for $25 & $5. My bank called me that same day. With the woman filing to get back her $2000+, she didn't notice the small charges, delayed just a day in returning the bank's call, and so by the time she realized what was going on, the thieves had racked up some larger amounts. We are often protected by our banks and so we will get reimbursed but it can take time...up to 3 weeks minimum. So those robbed will have to go without their funds...which can be challenging on bills! 

3. Rethink how your accounts are linked. The checking account I had was linked through over-draft protection with my credit card which is a safety net for me but this would be extra handy for a thief that got a hold of my data. Think of the damage they could have done to take all my checking and max out my cc! (God is merciful on me.) 

4. Consider having a Spending Account. In the future like I did in Iceland, I'll transfer money into what I'm calling a "spending account" with a debit card that I'll use for groceries, gas, random expenses, and online shopping which is not linked to any other account and carries a low balance so that if this ever happens again the damage will always be super small. Think of it as a card you "load" or like having your own pre-paid card. It's almost like an advanced "envelope system."

5. Totally unique password. Passwords are really a pain. It's easier to keep the same password for many different things. My email password is the same as my password to pay my water bill. I'm sure you probably do the same in some instances but with online banking...make sure to keep a totally unique one. It's just smart! I'm actually about to change mine up again just to be on the safe side. 

Anyway, today may be a great time to stroll in and talk to your banker about fund safety! 

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