How To Stay One Step Ahead of Cyber-Thieves

Banks and credit card issuers are introducing new tools and technology that can significantly improve the security of your financial data.  Learn what they are and how to use them.

Our personal data is becoming more and more vulnerable to cyber-thieves, as data breaches at major financial institutions and retailers happen with ever greater frequency.  Earlier this month, we learned that nearly two-thirds of U.S. households were affected by a security breach at JP Morgan Chase -- and that Chase plans to do little to inform consumers if their information was compromised.

Last month, Home Depot was in the headlines, with the news that the company left the credit/debit data of at least 56 million customers accessible to cyber-thieves. While Home Depot reports that they have resolved the security vulnerability, fraudulent transactions related to the theft are still taking place across the U.S.

And late last year, another retail giant was (pardon the pun) the target.  A security breach at Target exposed 40 million consumers to the theft of their financial data. Later we learned that the data breach at Target was not, in fact, limited to that chain. The Department of Homeland Security says the security breach was likely to have included more than 1,000 American businesses.

With all of this bad news, it's tempting to give in to 'data-breach fatigue', and just shrug our shoulders.

But don't give up just yet. While there are currently no options that guarantee iron-clad security, there are simple steps you can take, along with new tools being made available to consumers, that greatly increase the chances of keeping your personal data safe.

This article in the New York Times outlines several that are well worth adopting, including:

  • Customized text and email alerts that consumers can set for bank accounts, credit and debit cards
  • One-time use credit card numbers
  • Technology that offers consumers an ‘on/off' switch for credit and debit cards
  • Two-step verification

Financial institutions in the U.S. are finally implementing microchips in credit and debit cards, technology that significantly increases the security of those accounts. The chips have been in wide use in Europe for quite some time.  I've recently received two updated cards with the chip technology.  Ask your bank or card issuer for the microchip cards, if you haven't already received them.

Finally, one simple step you can take is to change your password frequently on online accounts that contain sensitive information.  This article in the New York Times contains great tips on how to create passwords that are more secure and less vulnerable to hackers.

Join the Conversation

How much do you worry about your financial or personal data being hacked?  

Do you use safeguards like these on your accounts or do you feel unsure of how to implement them?