If your credit card account is part of a data breach, there's an increased chance you'll be a victim of ID theft.
The warning comes as investigators track the hackers who just stole information from 1.5 million debit and credit card accounts. Electronic payment processor Global Payments says it's making progress responding to the large-scale hacking incident it revealed on April 1st. But new research shows data breaches are increasing, and your ID theft risk is steadily going up.
A new Javelin Strategy survey of more than 5,000 credit and debit card users shows that after a 28 percent plunge in ID theft cases in 2010, when more than 8 million consumers got hit. There was a 13 percent increase in I-D theft in 2011. More than 11.5 million adults became fraud victims. Experts tracking identity theft say you can thank the explosion of banking, shopping and other transactions you can execute on smart phones and tablets, along with carefree -- even careless -- information sharing on social networks. If your credit or debit card account is part of a data breach, security experts say you should worry.
"You are 10 times more likely to be a victim of fraud," said Javelin Strategy & Research President Jim VanDyke.
Javelin analyzes fraud and I-D theft trends for financial institutions.
"Two things are very clear. One, if you're a person who's notified of a data breach, meaning you were in a significant data breach, you are more likely to be a fraud victim. And two, that likelihood has been skyrocketing every year for the past 4 years," he said.
In 2008, VanDyke says a data breach notification made you three times more likely to be a fraud victim. In 2009, you were four times more likely to get hit. You were six times more likely to be a fraud victim in 2010. And, as of last year, according to Javelin's latest survey, being part of a data breach makes you 10 times more likely to have a fraudulent transaction carried out in your name.
Experts say while financial institutions are improving their security measures, most consumers are not changing bad habits that put their personal and financial information at risk. At the same time, criminals are more determined that ever to take advantage of the way you use technology.
If you get a data breach notification, experts say you should change your passwords immediately and make sure your passwords contain a combination of symbols, upper and lower case letters, and numbers. Make sure your smart phones, tablets and other devices are locked and password protected when not in use. And make sure you can remotely wipe your devices of all personal information if they become lost or stolen.
You should monitor all your accounts daily online. Security experts say we should also be checking our credit reports regularly. The Federal Trade Commission reminds consumers that the only official website for a truly free credit report is through annualcreditreport.com.
If you're on a social network, stop sharing personal information. ID thieves scour social network sites for any information they can use to pretend to be you, your friends or your family members. Protecting your social security number and credit card information is not enough. It's also crucial to avoid sharing the names of your children, parents and grandparents, where you live, and especially your year of birth, the name of your pet, and any other information you'd have to provide a bank, credit card company or other business to prove who you are.