Don't Let Data Theft Happen to You
ABOUT two weeks ago, I was alarmed by a phone message from my bank alerting me to some "unusual activity" on my debit card. Unusual wasn't the word. Someone had gone on a shopping spree - $556.46 and $650.81 at one store, $264.99 and $300 in charges that were pending at another - and none of it was mine.
My debit card was still in my wallet. I hadn't used it in days. The bank said thieves might have created a counterfeit card. Someone - a store clerk, waiter, whoever - could have used a card reader to harvest the information imbedded in the magnetic strip to create a fake one. The bank assured me the debit account was closed and the thieves no longer had access to my cash - but who could be sure? How much of my personal information did these thieves get?
Between bouts of tears and frantic phone calls to my bank, I became obsessed with what I might have done to prevent this.
UNFORTUNATELY, although there are steps you can take to protect yourself - and you should - there are no guarantees. "You cannot protect yourself completely," said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington. "The best thing you can do is react swiftly if it does happen."
Besides the standard advice to shred personal documents, following are some tips I found useful: