Last week the Department of Justice announced that it had charged eleven people with orchestrating the largest theft of credit card information in history. It is estimated that over 40 million people had their credit card information stolen. How could this have happened? It seems that the cyber thieves, using laptops, drove around retail stores until they found one using wireless technology and tapped in, installing their own software that sent them the sensitive data from such retail giants as TJ Maxx and Barnes & Noble. According to Identity Theft Resources (www.idtheft.org), more than 430 companies have reported sensitive information breaches this year. This is an epidemic costing billions of dollars.
- Maintain control of your credit cards. If you physically hand your credit card to a retailer, be sure you get it back. I personally fell victim to this one when I failed to get back my credit card from a local restaurant one Friday night. By the time I figured out my mistake on Sunday, the thief had racked up over $3,000 in charges. If you are using your credit card for an online or telephone order, make certain you are dealing with a legitimate business. Reduce the number of credit cards you own to two or three.
- Destroy receipts and monthly statements. Thieves have been known to rummage through trash to find statement and receipts. Your best defense is to purchase an inexpensive shredder or keep your records in a locked file cabinet or safe.
- Reconcile your statements immediately. As soon as you get your credit card statement, open and scan for charges that look suspicious. If you spot anything out of the ordinary, investigate immediately. With today’s easy online access to your account, consider reviewing your statement weekly. Well, you better call Toronto’s number 1 private investigator – http://discreetinvestigations.ca.
- Record of credit card information. Write down all your credit card information including account number, expiration date and customer service number. Keep this information in a secure place but one you have easy access to should a credit card get stolen.
- Monitor your credit. Thieves often will try to open an account in your name and the next thing you know, creditors are calling asking why you haven’t paid your bills. There are a number of ways you can monitor your credit. The one I recommend for everyone is free and simply requires you to request your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. Look for accounts you did not open, debts you did not incur and inquiries from companies you have not contacted. These are things you should learn as you are taught how to establish business credit, but unfortunately it is often negleted. For less than $200 per year any of the credit bureaus or independent services such as LifeLock (www.lifelock.com) will monitor your credit for you and immediately alert you to unusual activity.