My Credit Data Was Breached: Now What?


NEW YORK (MainStreet) —Sony announced Tuesday that a hack into its Playstation network compromised the personal information of about 77 million of its users.

According to company blog post, whoever is responsible for the breach now has access to these users’ names, addresses, emails, birth dates, network logins for Sony’s Playstation network, passwords and usernames. Sony also said it was possible that credit or debit card information had been obtained during the breach.  

The Sony snafu follows a similar one experienced by Epsilon, a service that manages email for dozens of major companies, earlier this month. In that particular case, only email addresses were obtained, but regardless, it’s forcing many consumers to rethink who they give their information to.

“Consumers are definitely at a greater risk than they were before,” says James Van Dyke, President of Javelin Strategy and Research, a market research company that conducts an annual study of identity theft.

This isn’t because data breaches have become prevalent, he explains. Recent research from Javelin indicates that data breaches on an annual basis have actually become less common. But consumers want to be careful because the data breaches that do occur are now much more targeted, meaning that a thief is purposefully going after specific information.

As such, Van Dyke says that while consumers may not need to go to extremes, “individuals who think their data has been compromised need to do something.”

Van Dyke spoke to MainStreet about what you can do when your credit card or banking information falls into the wrong hands:

Sign up with SMS alerts.

Most banks offer free services that allow their account holders to receive alerts whenever a transaction is made with their credit or debit cards. Van Dyke suggests that any consumer who is involved in a data breach and has not yet signed up for general transaction alerts from their bank or card issuer should do so immediately. He also says these consumers should select to receive text messages, as opposed to emails, for the alerts since that will minimize the chance of missing an important one.

And “when [the bank] asks you what limits you want to put on the transaction amounts you receive an alert for, make it $0,” Van Dyke says.

Change over to electronic statements.

Van Dyke says that during most breaches, thieves don’t get every piece of information they are looking for and will often go after the victims they have partial information on, just to find that last bit of info that will enable them to commit fraud. One tactic might include rifling through a target’s mail for a billing statement from your bank or creditor, so anyone who still receives paper statements should immediately switch to paperless billing.

Check your credit report.

There’s always the possibility that a thief will open up some new accounts of his own, rather than run up a bill with a stolen credit card. This can be harder to trace, but one surefire way to catch a thief in the act is to pull your own credit report. You can visit to get the free one that you are entitled to once each year.

Van Dyke also suggests that anyone who falls into a higher risk category – including those earning high incomes or who are victims of previous frauds – sign up for a credit monitoring service , such as one provided by one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), that will issue alerts when new activity creeps into your credit file.

Cancel your card.

While Van Dyke says this doesn’t have to be your first reaction to hearing about a data breach, anyone who falls victim to fraud should cancel his or her cards. Most banks or creditors may be able to switch the card balance to another account so as not to affect your credit score. But in the event that you transition to a new card number, you will want to ask your bank or card issuer how this will affect your current billing relationships. “You don’t want to miss payments on bills because the new card number gets rejected,” Van Dyke says.

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