If you're a Visa or MasterCard cardholder, your personal information may be in jeopardy.
The company that processes credit and debit cards for banks and merchants—including Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc.—suffered a breach in security, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
Roughly 1.5 million cardholders may be at risk. Visa and MasterCard are warning their customers. The extent of the security breach and any data loss is not yet known.
What steps can you take to protect yourself? Follow these 7 tips to monitor your accounts:
- 1. Call your insurance company or bank to see if you have identity theft management services. Some financial institutions offer this service for free as a perk for being a member or account holder.
- 2. Review the breached account. Identify what information it contains and what was compromised. Look for unauthorized activity, such as a change in address or telephone number.
- 3. Change all user access credentials. If you use the same passwords for other financial institutions, change them. Watch financial statements—on paper and online—for unauthorized transactions. Be aware of potential email, phone and snail mail scams. Enable text and email alerts when possible.
- 4. Notify existing creditors of the breach. Consider canceling your cards and getting new ones. Take advantage of issuers’ services that alert you to unusual transactions.
- 5. Place a fraud alert on your credit file. An alert placed with any one of the three major credit bureaus signals to potential creditors that you could be a victim of identity theft.
- • Initial Fraud Alerts last for 90 days and require potential creditors to confirm the legitimacy of your identity before granting credit.
- • Extended Fraud Alerts last for seven years. Victims of identity theft who provide credit bureaus with an identity theft report like this one are eligible.
- 6. Review your credit reports for any unusual activity. Visit annualcreditreport.com, the government-mandated source for free annual credit reports. Investigate suspicious activity and stay on top of it until the matter is resolved. Also, look for signs of fraud in your medical files, on your Social Security statement, in insurance claims or in public records.
- 7. Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. This may be necessary if you’re experiencing fraud as a result of the data breach. A freeze locks access to your credit, so no one will be able to open a new account in your name. To determine whether a freeze is right for you, read more here.