Although recent cyber-security attacks at major retailers like Target have received national media attention, less well-known security breaches have occurred in recent years. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Richard Cordray told CBS News that "your information is always at risk, every day."
The United States experiences nearly half of the world's credit card fraud incidents, partly because it has been slow to adopt the European chip-and-pin system. It is also the largest market. In case of a breach, however, U.S. consumers are protected under federal law.
"The first thing is, you have the ability to try to protect yourself," Cordray said. Consumers should monitor their accounts closely for any suspicious activity. "Some of it may even be a very small amount of activity, because sometimes they start by doing that to see if it's a live account," he added. Any problems should be reported immediately to the credit card issuer for resolution. Quick reporting of an issue can be a consumer's best bet at fast resolution and minimal damage.
Consumers are limited in how much they must pay out-of-pocket for wrongful card use. If they are not satisfied with how they are reimbursed by a card company, bank, or retailer, they can file a complaint with the CFPB. Cordray also warned against using services that contact customers to offer compensation help after a major breach. "They may seem very plausibly to be trying to help you," he said. "Don't give them your financial information; that would be an error. If you're contacted and you don't know who it is, go and get the number and the right information for your credit card company and bank, and you contact them so you know exactly who you're talking to. That's a very important thing for consumers."