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Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

You may be at risk of credit card fraud if you have ever charged a purchase at Home Depot. As widely reported in the media,hackers have obtained credit and debit card information for perhaps as many as 60 million customers. This may be the largest security breach ever, even topping the recent security breach at Target.

The good news for consumers is that the discovery of the security breach has alerted the entire banking and credit industry, and most of the industry is closely watching out for suspicious transactions.  Federal law limits consumer's responsibility for fraudulent charges to $50, but most banks will not make a consumer pay anything. One reason that banks have been so proactive in addressing consumers' concerns may be a desire to avoid being inundated with requests to change account numbers.   But, the banks' scrutiny comes at a cost to consumers, many of whom may experience difficulty getting legitimate charges approved.  

Additionally, after the Target breach, some bank have limited the amounts that consumers can withdraw from ATM's, which caused great inconvenience to many consumers. The same thing may happen again.

Despite these precautions by the banks, consumers should take certain steps to protect themselves.  The most important thing is to carefully review all bank and credit card statements to confirm that all charges are legitimate.  If there is a fraudulent charge, consumers need to exercise their right to dispute the transaction  The Fair Trade Commission has good instructions on how to do this on its website. It may be prudent to request a new account number from your bank, even if the bank says that it is not necessary.  If a bank refuses to change an account number, then consumers might want to consider closing the compromised account and opening a new one.   While consumers do have considerable protections from being ultimately responsible for fraudulent charges and withdrawals, the inconvenience of changing an account number or opening a new account may be better than having to deal with future hassles, inconvenience, and the temporary freezing of assets or credit.  That is a decision that consumers must make for themselves. 

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