If you’re one of the millions of Americans who used a credit, debit or ATM card at a retailer whose data was hacked, your account information may have been stolen.

What will happen now?

Once the shock is over, be discreet and a little vigilant. In most cases, you, your credit history and credit score should be good.

No federal law requires that you be personally informed of a data-related security breach. Forty-seven states require notification (Alabama, New Mexico and South Dakota are exceptions), but if there is a violation reporter, there is no need to wait. 10 steps that Federal fraud experts, consumer advocates and other experts say you should do:

Look at your receipts or scan your memory and figure out which card or cards you used in a store that was hacked.
Reset the password that was added to the online version of that account . This doesn’t protect you from unauthorized use of the card in brick-and-mortar stores, but it can help you defend against a deeper security breach if the data thief decides to roam cyberspace.

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If you have used a debit or ATM card, closely monitor the bank account attached to that card . Regularly go online and search for unauthorized transactions over the next few weeks or until the authorities or your bank have fully understood.
If you find one or more unauthorized transactions, notify the bank immediately . You must contact the card publisher within 60 days of the day the suspect statement was sent to you. Once you know about the problem, the Issuer will almost certainly tell you to disconnect the card in question and send you a replacement quickly. “They just want your credit card number, “said TomA, vice president of financial crimes management for USAA, the financial services company that serves mostly military families, during a flurry of data breaches in 2013 CreditCards.com’ he told a. “They are agnostics because their name is embedded in the magnetic strip.”
Know your legal responsibility and act quickly . In general, your liability for unauthorized purchases made with your bank or ATM card is limited to us $ 50. But time is crucial: under Federal law, if you do not report illegal transactions within 60 days, you can be held liable for the full amount. In any case, when you report an unauthorized transaction, the bank will most likely disable your debit or ATM card immediately and arrange for you to receive a new one.


If you used a card during the time hackers were active, go online and monitor the transactions associated with that account . Check this account often until the authorities are fully clear.
If you see anything suspicious, call the credit card regulator immediately and report the problem . When it comes to credit cards, federal law limits your liability for fraudulent transactions to $ 50.
If you see unauthorized transactions on a debit card or credit card , contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus and ask them to add a “fraud alert” to your account . This service is free and the company must share the warning with two other companies. The initial warning stays in your accounts for at least 90 days, making it harder for a thief to open more accounts on your behalf.
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As a precaution, proceed immediately and order a free copy of your credit report . Fraud will serve as the starting point if everything goes south in the coming weeks or months due to targeted breach or any other potential financial fraud. Federal law requires each of the three major credit reporting services to provide a free copy of your credit report every 12 months . When the report arrives, check carefully for errors or suspicious activity.


Where you are unlikely to be individually targeted for a full case of identity theft, the damage can spread to your other accounts. In this case, you can ask each of the three credit reporting companies to put a freeze on your credit file . This reduces the likelihood that thieves will open new accounts in your name, but it also means that potential creditors cannot get your credit report. Think of it as the nuclear option, and consider it an option that will only be used in serious circumstances.
Bottom line: if you exercise modest vigilance, act with common sense, and respond quickly to suspicious activity about your accounts, you should be fine.