Business
4:52 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Credit Breach: Tips on Protecting Yourself

The revelation that a leading credit card payment processor had some 1.5 million card numbers breached has put Texas consumers on alert.

Details are scarce about who has been affected at this point, but the latest potential for identity theft may raise a collective groan in Texas. Just a year ago, the State Comptroller’s office revealed it had left the Social Security information of 3.5 million state workers online, on an unsecured webpage.

The Comptroller’s Office offered those affected one year of free credit monitoring. But now that that period is drawing to a close.

Erin Rodriguez, spokesperson at the Austin office of the Better Business Bureau, suggests any concerned cardholders take advantage of the free credit reports the big three reporting companies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—are required to offer each year, but spacing the reports out, to better monitor your credit over the year.  

“You can get it from all three reporting agencies, and you can spread that out over a year, which will help you keep a closer eye on all your accounts,” Rodriguez says. She also suggests immediately notifying your bank to make them aware if any unauthorized transactions appear on your account.

Consumers can download their credit reports free of charge at annualcreditreport.com

If you are the victim of fraudulent charges, you can also file a police report and send it to the credit reporting agencies.

As we reported last April, credit breaches have become common.

Neal O’Ferrall, the executive director of the Identity Theft Council, told KUT's Mose Buchele that all those security breaches add up.Just on data breaches, the last five years, over about 500 million personal records have been exposed," he said.

Just to be clear, the US population is only about 313 million. You do the math and it's safe to assume you're already a victim of I-D theft. So experts advise: carefully monitor your credit report, and watch where you make your information available.

If you fear that someone else is using your identity, you can also set up a credit fraud alert with the three major credit rating agencies (here, here, and here).