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7 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Credit Card Fraud

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You shopped at Target this holiday season. Bad news: your credit card is now one of the 40 million that may have been subject to a data breach that could cost consumers $4 billion.

What now?

There's no panacea. "If you're going to use a card there's always this risk that the system could be compromised," said Robert Heath, a consumer protection attorney in Pensacola, Fla.

But there are ways to mitigate your risk. Here are seven things you can do to protect yourself against fraud.

1. Cancel your card

If you shopped at Target with plastic over the period of the breach, November 27 to December 15, call your bank and ask for a new card with a different number, said attorney Lawrence A. Silverman of the Southeast Consumer Law. He also recommended changing passwords to any online accounts accessible online for cards used at the store.

"This is no doubt a major inconvenience," he said. But, he said, cancelling cards proactively is better than fighting fraud after the fact.

But not everyone agrees such a drastic course of action is needed. Cancelling cards before fraud is detected would lead to unnecessary annoyance, said Al Pascual, a senior analyst of security, risk and fraud at Javelin Strategy and Research. And while many consumers are aware of the high-profile Target breach, they often don't know about smaller scale security failures, he said.

"It may seem like an easy fix, but in reality, consumers don't know about all the breaches" that occur on their cards, Pascual said.

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