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The CFPB recently published a consumer advisory responding to the wake of data breaches and payment card issues. This advisory was issued both to help consumers better protect their cards and data, and also to educate consumers on where to get help if there is a data or card breach.  The advisory can be found here.

It is estimated that over 70 percent of Americans have at least one credit card. These cards are used on a daily basis with debit cards replacing credit cards as the commonly used cards. Recently with the discovery of what happened at Target and other credit providers, millions of names, emails, phone numbers, addresses and other personal information have been exposed and stolen as a result of the breach. This has made these accounts susceptible to possible fraud.

The advisory listed several ways that consumers can protect themselves against the theft of their information.  A critical review process must be done by any consumer when a statement is received.  If anything is irregular as a result of the review process, this should be timely reported to your credit card company. No problem is too small to report as this may stop the criminal in their tracks before a bigger problem arises. This process is important since fraudulent charges may occur many months after the theft and unless caught early it may be too late. When these problems occur with an account, consumers should change the PIN immediately. 

If there is suspicion of fraud or theft regarding an unauthorized charge or debit report it immediately. That way the company who provided the card can take steps to close the account before any further damage occurs. A new replacement card can be issued. Federal law provides that as long as consumers report these fraudulent charges early they will not be responsible.

While early reporting is key to avoiding these charges, consumers should not hesitate to follow up with the card provider. A phone call reporting the theft should be followed up with written communication detailing the unauthorized charges. Records of the written communication and phone calls should be kept by all consumers.

Consumers need to avoid all “phishing” scams where the fraud occurs over the phone or by email. In these instances the “phisher” asks for personal information and account verification.  The scammer then takes your information to make fraudulent purchases. This type of scam should be immediately reported to the credit card company.

Under CFPB rules, the card provider must investigate the scam and respond with results. Consumers have the right to see the investigative results. Consumers can submit complains on at, by fax at 855-237-2392, by phone at 855-411-cfpb(2372) or by mail Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244.