Millions of credit cards at Target were hacked here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you

I’m going to dare you to do something wild.  Ready for it?

Go to google and type in this:

hacked credit cards pastebin

My search returned over 16,000 results with titles like fresh hacked credit cards, visa credit cards and hacked credit cards high balance.

Google search for hacked credit cards pastebin

Pastebin is a unique web application that lets anyone temporarily store raw text.  Usually, programmers paste in Javascript, PHP or CSS code to share with their peers; however, nefarious hackers have exploited the innate anonymity that Pastebin offers by posting compromised credit card numbers for public consumption.

Rapacious hackers seeking monetary gain often frequent these site sifting the pages for active credit cards.

This is a serious problem that’s why I’m going to arm you with the knowledge you need to:

  • Know how cards get hacked
  • Determine what to do if you’ve been hacked
  • Delineate the steps to prevent subsequent hacks

How do credit cards get hacked?

Whenever you use your credit card, either online or at the counter, the card number has to traverse a payment network.  If a malicious hacker can intercept that data at the payment junction then he or she can effectively spin your financial life into disarray.

Admittedly, the efficacy of hacking credit cards through electronic entry, aka swiping at the register, is harder because only the final four digits are visible; the other numbers are obfuscated as asterisks, but what about online systems?

I’ll get to that in a moment but right now I want to define the modus operandi that hackers, and people who abet hackers, use to feast on your sensitive card data.

In geek vernacular it’s known as phishing.  Just as a fisherman attempts to make a catch with the right bait, unscrupulous hackers attempt to catch your credit cards via the bait of social engineering.

Nine times out of ten the perpetrator deftly crafts an email designed to trick you into divulging your credit card digits.

The email may appear to be innocuous; however, it’s rife with deception.

For example, the email ostensibly comes from your bank, a large e-commerce site such as Amazon or an auction site such has eBay, but actually originates from a artful hacker seeking to steal your credit cards.

Help! I think I’ve been hacked

One word: equanimity.

If you think you’ve been hacked don’t panic, stay cool because too much anxiety may lead to impetuous decisions.

Befriend the law

The first thing you need to realize is that the law is on your side.

That’s right, according to the 1968 Truth in Lending Act, if you immediately report your card is stolen, your maximum liability for fraudulent charges caps off at $50.

Call the card company

The second thing is to swiftly call your credit card company and tell them that you think it was compromised in a security breach.  You can usaually find the phone number on the back of your card but here’s a list of contact information for the major cards issuers:

I want you to be cognizant of the fact that most credit card companies desperately want to identify and remediate credit card fraud because it costs them a lot of money not to.  There is an incentive for the card companies to work with you to make reparations.

When you call it, the card issuer will hit you with a fusillade of questions; however, answer each question to the best of your ability.  The issuer isn’t interrogating you, it just needs all relevant information so it can address the problem.

The important thing is to close the old account, get a new card and then send the issuer a statement via certified mail delineating what happened.  That last bit about the certified mail is recommend by the FTC so it’s imperative that you do that.

Change your passwords

The third action is to reset all your passwords and bump the complexity.  I strongly suggest using Microsoft’s Telepathwords which can help you divine a strong password.

View and monitor your credit reports

Forth, you should pull your credit report.  Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the three major credit bureaus are legally obligated to give you a free report if your credit card has been stolen.  Peruse the reports for aberrant activity then monitor your accounts for anything suspicious.

Obviating future threats

Okay here’s my advice: never use your debit card for internet transactions.  Since the card directly links to your checking account, you’re exposing yourself to wanton risk whenever you whip out your debit card to purchase stuff online.

That being said, you should know that the Federal Reserve’s Regulation E, protects debit card transfers provided that you notify the bank within two days of your theft discovery.

Furthermore, learn how to identify fraudulent emails and never open email attachments, even if you trust the sender!

That sounds like paranoia but many worms proliferate by exploiting the benighted public.  Sophisticated worms will appear valid because it comes from someone in your address book; however, if you called the sender you might discover they never sent you anything.  If the senders computer is infected then they may unwittingly send you an email with an illicit attachment.

That’s why I’m perpetually suspicious of attachments and always try to confirm with the sender that it the attachment was intentional.

The Bottom Line

I woke up this morning, checked the news and you know what the first thing I read?

Target confirms unauthorized access to payment card data

Yup, it happened again.

40 million credit cards were breached

F O U R T Y M I L L I O N.

I read it and thought to myself: this is sober reminder that we must be vigilant with our sensitive data.  This is whyI never store my credit card information online.  Today’s Target breach and the Global Payments fiasco last year scare me away from storing my credit cards with merchants.

This stuff is serious; however, we can win against the bad guys with a few simple actions.  We just need to be sagacious and now that you know how credit cards are hacked, what to do when you get hacked and preemptive steps you can take to preclude being hacked in the future, you’re better poised to protect yourself.

Together we can beat the bad guys.  The good will always win in the end.

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