The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a consumer advisory last week instructing consumers on how to protect themselves against recent data breaches and where to get help if their information was stolen.  Millions of consumers have been exposed to potential fraud as a result of such breaches involving payment cards, including credit, debit, and prepaid cards.  Personal information, including names and contact information of consumers, appears to have been stolen as well.   

The CFPB identified four important steps consumers can take to prevent fraud:

  1. Monitor your accounts for unauthorized charges or debits: Be aware that even small charges and charges many months after information was stolen may occur.
  2. Contact your bank or card provider immediately if you suspect a fraudulent charge or debit: Call your bank or card provider’s customer hotline and ask for a new card if you suspect unauthorized charges or debits to prevent more transactions from occurring.  The CFPB also recommends changing your PIN.  Under federal law, consumers are generally not responsible for unauthorized charges and debits if reported in a timely manner.
  3. Maintain records of communications with your bank or card provider: Keep records of dates you called your bank or card provider about the unauthorized charges.  Ask how you can follow up with a written communication and keep copies of such communications.
  4. Beware of scams asking for your personal information over email or phone: Financial institutions do not ask for account information through email or phone calls they initiate. Contact your card provider to report such unsolicited contacts.

As the CFPB explains, banks and card providers are obligated to investigate reported unauthorized charges and respond to consumers within a specified amount of time.  In the wake of the latest significant information breaches, banks and card providers should redouble their efforts concerning the safeguards offered to their customers.