During the past few months we all heard about “The Target Breach,” and many of us were directly affected by it. As many as 40 million debit and credit card accounts and the personal data of 70 million consumers may have been compromised.
Although certain card account data was potentially compromised, that does not mean data related to your account was taken. Please be assured that banks are actively monitoring the activity on your accounts to protect you from fraud.
This brings up the question: Is it safe to use my debit or credit card? Yes. However, there are differences in how the card transactions are processed. And the protections offered to consumers vary depending on whether it is a debit or credit card transaction. While debit cards and credit cards each have advantages, each may be better suited to certain transactions.
What you need to do:
Keep a close watch on your account activity. To avoid unnecessary grief, you should be monitoring your account daily. If you suspect your card number was compromised, ask your bank to close it and order you a new one. It is extremely important that you report any suspicious activity to your bank immediately.
The Federal Reserve's Regulation E covers debit card transfers and sets a consumer liability for fraudulent purchases at $50, provided they notify the bank within two days of the transactions. Most banks have additional voluntary policies that set their own customers liability with debit cards at $0. However, the protection doesn't relieve consumers of the stress of the waiting time of trying to get money put back into their account, the responsibility of completing required paperwork and the problem of a lower-than expected balance that can cause checks or payments to be refused.
Under the EFTA (Electronic Funds Transfer Act), a bank has 10 business days to investigate the matter (20 business days if your account is new). If you are using a business debit card, these protections do not apply, and the risks are greater.
Keep receipts of debit card transactions and match them to your account history. Your quick attention to the problem may help limit your liability. If your bank offers account alerts, sign up for them – they could be in the form of a text or email message that will alert you immediately when a debit card transaction is processed.
In addition, review your statement for transactions, which are recurring. You will need to notify these companies in advance as a courtesy to let them know your new card number, and that the old card was compromised.
Within the next year or two, banks and merchants will be converting their cards to the new Euro MasterCard Visa (EMV) standard – also known as the chip and pin card. Be on the lookout for these new cards from your bank, as the banks and merchants will have to update their ATMs and Point of Sale terminals.
While Target did not have EMV capable terminals, any consumers with these newer EMV cards would still have been compromised, as the new cards still have a magnetic stripe on the back. The magnetic strip is still needed for merchants who have not upgraded their terminals to the new EMV standard.