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What to Do If You’ve ‘Possibly’ Been Hacked

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With the news of so many data breaches emerging lately, you may be wondering what the attacks mean for you. It’s not always clear what happened to your information or if a breach will affect your accounts at all.

Some of those questions may never get answered, which is why it’s smart to be proactive.

“You have to develop a culture of monitoring,” says Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. “If there were no data breach, you should be looking at your credit and debit cards on a daily basis.”

That advice is especially relevant when the details of a data breach are murky. For instance, Michaels announced a possible data breach recently, and those who shop at the craft supply chain may be wondering if there’s need for concern. It’s not immediately clear if anyone is at risk for fraud, but that shouldn’t stop you from looking out for suspicious activity.

Get Familiar With Your Accounts

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a statement Monday advising consumers to do just that. In the advisory, the bureau suggested checking account activities online and closely reviewing monthly bank statements, even if you have no reason to believe your information was compromised. It also highlighted something that’s easy to overlook: small charges. Thieves make small purchases with stolen cards because they’re less likely to be noticed than a large, isolated expense.

As soon as you notice a transaction you didn’t authorize, alert your card issuer, and keep a copies of the records you reference. There are helpful laws that protect consumers from fraud, but it’s always in your best interest to stem the damage by quickly taking action.

Security Is a Habit

While the news of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches may increase your sense of urgency when it comes to protecting your information, Levin says it should always be a priority. He recommends checking account activity daily.

Yes, every day.

“Is it any less practical than reading your email 17 times a day and going to social networking sites?” he said. “Somewhere in there, you have to take a few minutes to protect you and your family. You are protecting your family when you take time to make sure all is well in your financial life.”

Ask your bank or card issuer if it provides transactional monitoring so you receive text or email alerts when a purchase of more than a certain dollar amount clears your account. Take advantage of the free access to your annual credit reports, and regularly review your credit scores to watch out for sudden changes. There are a lot of simple, free ways for you to stay on top of these things — the Credit.com Credit Report Card is one of them — and the increased awareness will make managing your finances a lot easier in the long run.

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