Clark Howard: Know the etiquette following a breach of consumer data

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In the midst of a severe case of “data breach fatigue,” we recently got word of another at Home Depot.

This one could be larger than the Target breach that affected more than 100 million customers late last year. Regardless of how the final numbers shake out, there are some things you need to keep in mind whenever you hear about these increasingly common data breaches.

Our nation’s banks were woefully behind the rest of the world when it came to investing in secure chip and PIN technology. We’re the last place on Earth that uses ’60s era magnetic strips on our cards; that’s why all the criminals target us. The banks are only now making the wholesale switch to new safer technology, but that will take at least two more years.
I think it’s particularly important to know the retailers — whether you’re talking about Target, Home Depot, or anybody else — are not at fault here. The blame lies with the banks.
If you’re among those hit by the Home Depot breach, you need to go through your credit card and debit card statements this month and next month with a fine-tooth comb. Identify any bogus charges the crooks may have pushed through and dispute them immediately with your bank or credit card company.

Beware anyone calling or emailing, trying to impersonate a breached retailer or your bank. The cons may ask you to click a link or to verbally confirm personal information over the phone.
Customers who use debit cards are hit hardest. If you wish to continue using debit in the future, tie it into a separate account that’s only used for debit transactions. I like to call it your “walking around” money. That way, only that money you transfer to your separate account is at risk in a breach.

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website.

— Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

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