In light of the data breaches that have "exposed millions of payment card accounts to potential fraud" in recent months, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Monday released an advisory to help consumers not only protect themselves from fraud, but also provide guidance on where to get help if they suspect their information has been compromised. In addition to payment card accounts, these data breaches also involve the theft of "millions of consumers' names, phone numbers, emails, and addresses." Consumers are advised to take the following steps to help protect themselves from fraud:

  • Monitor accounts for unauthorized charges or debits. Fraudulent activity can be a very small charge that occurs months after the information is stolen.
  • Alert bank or card providers immediately if fraud is suspected. If fraudulent charges appear, "the consumer should ask the card provider to close access to the account and issue a new card before more transactions come through."
  • Follow up with the bank or card provider and maintain detailed records of all contact with these entities.
  • Avoid scams that ask for personal information over email or by phone. Known as "phishing," scammers use this method to verify account information. To prevent it, "ask for a call-back number to verify the requestor is actually their financial institution."

For more, read the full news release and consumer advisory.