On Monday, Albert Gonzalez of Miami, Florida was charged with the largest case of credit and debit card theft in the history of the United States. The ex government informant, after already swiping 40 million accounts, had plotted to steal 130 million more, by hacking into retail networks and retrieving the data. He and two other unnamed suspects had planned to take the private information and sell it to others. Read more at newsday.com.
This case, as large and damaging as it could be to millions of people, is an excellent reminder of how important it is to be vigilant in guarding your accounts from fraud, and protecting yourself from identity theft.
What to do if you’re a victim
At this point it’s probably too early for all those who’s credit and debit card information has been compromised, to be notified individually. So the best thing you can do now is check over your credit card and bank accounts online for any suspicious activity. If you notice any charges or debits that you did not authorize, report them immediately to your financial institution. Early detection is the best way to protect yourself if your account information has already been compromised.
It costs time and money
On average, identity theft victims lose an average $1,800 to $14,000 in wages dealing with their cases. Average time involved in repairing the damage done – 3 to 5,840 hours (data from spamlaws.com).
Imagine this times all the millions of accounts that were compromised. The information stolen in this case seemed to only be credit card and debit card information, so the problem probably would be contained there, still, unfortunately, could bring damaging results for the victims.
Which is safer, credit cards or debit cards?
Typically you will be safer using credit cards over debit cards. The reason is that credit card companies often limit your liability to no more than $50 of the unauthorized charges (many cards actually have zero liability). Where your liability with a stolen debit card could be 10 times that amount if you don’t notify them of the event quick enough.
Not to say you shouldn’t use a debit card, just be careful with it and notify your bank immediately if you think someone has stolen your account information, especially if your actual debit card has been stolen.
Whether you use a debit card, credit card, or both – keep a close eye on your accounts for unauthorized charges. If you see anything suspicious, notify your bank or credit card company of the activity immediately, it could save you a lot of time and money if you spot the fraudulent charges early.