How Do Merchant Data Breaches Affect Your Identity?

Every year millions of Americans become victims of fraud due to merchant data breaches. And, with the recent Equifax breach, which affected 145.5 million people, chances are your information has been compromised. 

Although most consumers have probably only heard about a few breaches, more than 1,100 data security breaches have occurred thus far this year exposing more than 171 million data records, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Many credit unions are working hard to implement debit and credit card chip technology, but they do not prevent online merchant transaction fraud. As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve in both sophistication and scale, the need to safeguard your data has never been more critical.

Credit unions work hard to protect their members' data security including blocking and re-issuing cards as needed. When fraud occurs, they work with members to remove the fraudulent charges and help members keep their hard-earned money. When the merchants cause a data breach, they pass along the costs of their poor security to credit unions and banks. Expenses like this are making it harder for credit unions to offer credit cards with low interest rates and free debit cards with checking accounts. With more and more merchant data breaches occurring each year consumer identity fraud will only continue to increase, placing your private information into the hands of criminals.

So, what do you do if your identity is compromised? Here are some tips and resources to help:

  • Verify fraud. If unauthorized account transactions occur, contact your financial institution or company where fraud has occurred to report unknown charges.
  • Update your passwords. Once fraud is confirmed, change account logins and passwords. Passwords should be robust with multiple types of characters (upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols).
  • Take control. To avoid additional compromises place an initial fraud alert by calling one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax: 800-525-6285; Experian: 888-397-3742; TransUnion: 800-680-7289).
  • Report theft. To begin an identity recovery plan report your theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

To learn more about how merchant data breaches are affecting your credit union visit www.stopthedatabreaches.com.

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week Aims to Educate Consumers about Scams

Identity theft is a serious crime. When a thief obtains your personal information such as your mother's maiden name, your date of birth, or your account number, they can open fraudulent credit cards, charge existing credit cards, write share drafts, open share accounts, or obtain new loans – but did you know they can also use your Social Security number to receive a tax refund or a job? It is called Tax Identity Theft and tax season is the most common time for this type of fraudulence to happen.

To educate members about this type of theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that January 25 through January 29 is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week for 2016. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has updated its tax identity theft resources page on the MyCreditUnion.gov consumer website to provide information to help credit union members understand and prevent identity theft, to protect themselves from other frauds and scams, and the steps used to report all fraudulent activity.

The Federal Trade Commission is also hosting a series of educational events online to correspond with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week:

  • January 26 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) – the FTC and AARP’s Fraud Watch Network and Tax Aide Program will co-host a webinar for consumers addressing how tax identity theft happens and what people should do if they become a victim.

  • January 27 at 11:00 a.m. (EST) – Twitter Chat with Information for Veterans about Tax IDT hosted by FTC and Department of Veterans Affairs

  • January 28 at 1:00 p.m. (EST) – Assisting Victims of Tax Identity Theft, a webinar hosted by FTC and IRS

  • January 29 at 2:00 p.m. (EST) – FTC and ITRC Twitter Chat #IDTheftChat

For more information on protecting yourself and others against identity theft, visit ftc.gov/idtheft.