How to Protect Your Credit Card From a Data Breach

hackedEven if you’re not one of the 40 million Target shoppers whose credit or debit card information was stolen Nov. 27 to Dec. 15, 2013, you’ve most definitely heard of the data breach by now. With the list of hacked companies, websites and apps growing longer, it’s time to take a serious look at credit card security and what you can do to stay safe online. Let’s run through the basics of credit card companies’ fraud prevention methods, and what you can do to protect yourself.

How credit cards work:

Your credit card has a lot of information that can be used to verify its authenticity: an expiration date, a three-digit security number and your name. There’s also a magnetic strip on the back of the card that contains all of that information and more. When you swipe your credit card, the information on the magnetic strip gets transmitted to a third party, who then verifies with your financial institution that all your information is correct, and approves the transaction.

There are other authentication methods, such as checking your signature or asking to see an ID, but not every merchant takes these steps. Additionally, if you’re making an online purchase, you might be required to input the three-digit number called the card verification value, or CVV, as well as the card number and expiration date. Merchants aren’t permitted to store the CVV in their databases in an effort to keep that information away from hackers. Therefore, merchants ask you to enter your CVV to prove that you actually have the physical card.

What about the rest of the world?

America lags behind the rest of the world in terms of credit card security techniques. We use magnetic strips to hold our data, whereas other countries use EMV chips. These chips use a different (some say better) method of encrypting data. While magnetic strips have the same encryption method, the method for EMV chips varies, making them harder to hack. This has produced dramatic results on point-of-sale transactions. For example, the United Kingdom rolled out EMV technology in the 2000s and saw fraud rates drop by 63 percent between 2004 and 2010, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The United States is moving closer to widespread EMV adoption, but for now, we’re still using our old magnetic strip cards.

How can I keep my data safe?

Here are a few ways to protect your credit card data beyond the encryption methods offered by merchants:

  • Make sure you sign the back of your credit card – if you don’t, your fraud liability might be higher.
  • When making online purchases from your computer or phone, make sure the web address starts with “https” instead of “http.” The “s” means the site is secure.
  • Use a personal finance service like Mint.com to instantly see which transactions have been made on which card.
  • Shred credit card statements and anything that has your credit card number or personal information on it.
  • Be wary of making online purchases on a public Wi-Fi connection – they’re easy to hack. If you find yourself using public Wi-Fi often, consider getting a VPN, which is more secure.

But don’t worry too much.

While credit card fraud is a hassle to deal with, your liability is limited. By law, you’ll never be on the hook for more than $50 if your credit card is stolen and the thief racks up charges. You’re also not liable for any purchases made after you report the card lost or stolen. In the wake of the Target data breach, it’s reassuring to know that you have no liability if your card information, rather than the card itself, is stolen. Finally, many credit cards offer zero-liability policies that provide better protection than the law requires.

If you ever fall victim to a Target-like data breach, call your financial institution right away to report the incident. Don’t panic, though – federal law gives you quite a bit of protection!

After the recent credit card data breaches, this is the perfect opportunity to enroll in First Financial’s ID Theft Protection Services. Our ID Theft Protection services can easily be obtained, there are options for setting up a credit score tracker, as well as a virtual vault to store your important documents and passwords online, and should an ID Theft incident ever occur – you’ve got an advocate on your side assisting you every step of the way. Ask us how to get started today by calling 866.750.0100 or emailing info@firstffcu.com!*

Article by Anisha Sekar of US News. Click here to view the article source.

*Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informal purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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Debit vs Credit Cards: Which is safer to swipe?

holiday-credit-or-debitWhile the tens of millions of Target shoppers who had their credit and debit card information stolen likely won’t be on the hook for any fraudulent transactions that may occur, debit card users could face much bigger headaches than credit card users.

That’s because debit and credit cards are treated differently by consumer protection laws. Under federal law, your personal liability for fraudulent charges on a credit card can’t exceed $50. But if a fraudster uses your debit card, you could be liable for $500 or more, depending on how quickly you report it.

“I know people love their debit cards. But man oh man, they are loaded with holes when it comes to fraud,” said John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com, a credit management website.

Plus, if someone uses your credit card, the charge is often credited back to your account immediately after it’s reported, Ulzheimer said. Yet, if a crook uses your debit card, not only can they drain your bank account, but it can take up to two weeks for the financial institution to investigate the fraud and reimburse your account.

“In the meantime, you might have to pay your rent, your utilities and other bills,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. The organization recommends that consumers stick to credit cards as much as possible.

Whichever card you decide to swipe, here are ways to protect yourself from scammers.

Be vigilant with your accounts: The Target hack is just the latest in a long history of data breaches, and it likely won’t be the last.

As a result, you should check your debit and credit account activity at least every few days and keep an eye out for any unfamiliar transactions. If you notice anything fishy, notify your financial instituion or credit card company immediately.

“Waiting until the end of the month to check out your credit card statement for fraudulent use is a relic of the past,” Ulzheimer said. “Fraud is a real-time crime, and we as consumers have to be constantly engaged.”

Set your own fraud controls: Financial institutions have their own internal fraud controls, but some transactions can slip through the cracks, said Al Pascual, senior analyst of security risk and fraud at Javelin Strategy & Research.

Many financial institutions will let you set alerts for account transactions. Even better, some allow you to block transactions that are out of the ordinary for you, such as for online purchases at a certain kind of retailer or for any purchases over $500.

“We believe that consumers are going to know best as to how to protect their account,” he said. “They know their own behaviors.

Did you know that First Financial has ID Theft Protection services? When you enroll in one of these services, one of the benefits you’ll receive is an automatic alert sent to you via email and text message, allowing you to confirm whether or not any recent activity is fraudulent. With Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored. Click here to learn more and get started today!

Watch out for fraud hotspots: You should be especially wary of using a debit card online and at retailers more vulnerable to fraud.

Gas stations and ATMs are hotspots for so-called “skimmers,” or machines that scammers install to capture your card information. Watch out for ATM parts that look unusual and always cover your hand when typing your PIN in case a camera is watching, said Shirley Inscoe, a senior analyst with the Aite Group.

Don’t let your guard down: If you think your information has been compromised, don’t assume everything’s fine after a few months. Stolen card information is often sold to a variety of groups on the black market who may hold onto it for months or even years.

“Many times these fraud rings will wait until the news dies down and people have forgotten about it before they use that data,” Inscoe said. “It may not be used until next winter, so it really is a good idea for people to monitor their activity.”

If you fall victim to ID Theft, don’t panic – First Financial is here to help! Report the incident regarding any of your First Financial accounts immediately, by calling us at 866.750.0100 or emailing info@firstffcu.com

*Article by Melanie Hicken of Yahoo Finance – click here to view the article source.

Protecting Yourself From Holiday Fraudsters

HolidayMailTheftThe holiday season is here and you’re beginning to spend your hard-earned money while shopping online, by phone, or in stores—and fraudsters are on the prowl, ready to steal your cash and personal information. Don’t let these criminals get away with ruining your financial security.

We encourage you to protect yourself against fraud now before it’s too late. Below are some easy strategies you can use to help better detect and avoid falling victim to fraud and identity theft.

  • Review Credit Reports at Least Once a Year. This will help ensure fraudulent accounts have not been opened using your personal information. Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You can receive your report by contacting the credit reporting agencies directly or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Shred Documents with Personal and Financial Information. Financial statements, credit card offers and billing statements are examples of documents you should be shredding. Consider going to a local shred day in your area so you can safely discard your personal and financial records.
  • Monitor Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. You should get into the routine of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
  • Ensure Children Understand What Information to Provide Online. Fraudsters will often use a game or a free offer that will request personal information, or will include spyware to track and steal information from your computer or mobile device. Protect yourself by encouraging your children to limit online contact to friends they actually know, setting privacy controls to restrict access to private information, and enabling parental controls that allow access to only trusted sites. It is also a good idea to talk to your children about not giving out their name, address, date of birth, or any other personal information online without talking to you first.
  • Beware of Downloading Sneaky Apps. Smartphone or social networking applications may provide application developers with access to your personal information, such as messages, contacts, emails and photos. Often, this information isn’t related to the application’s purpose. Instead developers may share the information with marketers or other third parties. Be sure to read the privacy policy of each application before downloading to understand what private information you’re sharing.
  • Look Out for Scams Involving Social Engineering. Fraudsters may impersonate a credit union (or other legitimate organizations) to trick you into giving out personal account information. This social engineering tactic is often utilized as part of an elaborate scheme involving phone calls, emails, text messages and other forms of communication. Keep in mind that you should never reply to unsolicited telephone, email, text or pop-up messages asking for personal account information. It is important to understand legitimate organizations never ask for sensitive information over unsecured communication channels. Click here to view some important articles with tips and advice about how you can protect yourself from fraud. Remember, a fraudster’s greatest advantage is your lack of knowledge and awareness – so get educated!
Check out our ID Theft Protection products – with Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.
Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our new ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

* Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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“Tis the Season”…..Protect Your Family NOW

Santa-caption2Don’t look now, but identity thieves are gearing up for the holidays just like you. They know that transactions are flying around and everyone is looking for great deals. A “perfect storm” for prying on people and catching you off guard because “it’s the holidays”!

There are so many ways for thieves to steal personal information and unfortunately they know that during the holidays people tend to be easy targets. According to the “McAfee Highlights of the Top 12 Scams of Christmas” the schemes used by thieves can be as simple as selling “bogus gift cards” online or as sophisticated as setting up “fake charities”.

The simple fact is that we can’t be “on-guard” all the time and there are far too many ways that you and your loved ones could be subjected to one or more of these scams. Many of these scams lead to identity theft events that can be very harmful. So how does anyone feel completely safe from these crafty identity thieves? Make a small investment and obtain the ultimate safety net…purchase high quality, identity theft recovery and restoration services like we offer here at First Financial. It is much less expensive than monitoring services (which you can actually do quite easily yourself), and provides the greatest form of ultimate protection.

As you’ve just learned, identity thieves go into a frenzy during the holiday season and it can happen to anyone, anywhere – regardless of how careful you are, your age, income, or where you live — so don’t wait until you become a victim and do something to protect yourself! First Financial has arranged with Santa to obtain this kind of service for members from a top quality company that has been in business almost as long as Santa himself…over 77 years. This deal is better than any other you’ll find under the tree this year.

With Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our new ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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Identity Theft is Growing & Becoming Costly to Victims

2282_identitytheftYour credit-card data is out there and criminals are buying and selling it in bulk. Credit card data theft is exploding, increasing 50% from 2005 to 2010, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Millions of card numbers are for sale. A single number might go for $10 to $50; a no-limit American Express card number for a consumer with good credit can sell for hundreds of dollars, said Monica Hamilton, marketing director at cyber-security firm McAfee Inc. in Santa Clara, California.

As a result, identity theft has become big business. The number of malicious programs written to steal your information has grown exponentially to an estimated 130 million from about 1 million in 2007, Hamilton said. The most successful identity thieves have learned that it’s more lucrative to hack into businesses, where they can steal card numbers by the thousands or even millions.

Losses suffered by the businesses they hack can be staggering — an estimated $150 to $250 for each card number stolen. Those costs come in the form of legal settlements, fees for consultants hired to remove malware, and personnel hours spent notifying customers. The costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher retail prices and credit-card fees.

Identify theft, defined as the successful or attempted misuse of credit-card, bank-account or other personal information to commit fraud, is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime. Security analysts say everyone should prepare to become a victim at some point. Yet identity theft often goes unreported, and the crimes that are reported are rarely investigated.

Most local law enforcement lacks the personnel and expertise to investigate smaller identity crimes, and the FBI is only interested in massive cases involving hundreds of victims or more, Rasch said. According to some police, it is often impossible to locate the perpetrators of identity-related crimes, which makes them among the most difficult cases to solve.

“In identity theft cases it is difficult to identify the suspect(s) as they often use inaccurate information such as addresses and phone numbers,” it states. “Frequently the investigator cannot find evidence to prove who actually used the victim’s name and/or personal information over the phone or Internet.”

A 2012 study, by the Washington, D.C.-based Identity Theft Assistance Center, found that child identity theft is even more difficult to detect and resolve than adult identity theft. One problem is children often don’t find out until years later that their identities were stolen and their credit histories damaged.

Another disturbing aspect of child identity theft is the prevalence of “friendly fraud,” in which a family friend or relative — often the child’s own parents — steals the child’s identity, using the child’s pristine credit history to open credit-card accounts and take out mortgages and loans. According to the study, more than 70% of reported child identity fraud is friendly fraud.

Challenge for retailers

Individuals can have their identity stolen in a number of ways, including while swiping credit or debit cards at the cash registers of trustworthy retailers. Identity thieves use computer programs to infiltrate retail systems and begin siphoning off bank-card numbers when purchases are made. Point-of-sale system hacking is a serious and growing problem, according to business-security expert Kim Singletary.

Singletary, director of technical solution marketing at McAfee, said the security-software company has discovered about 130 million unique malware programs from across the Internet, up from just 1 million in 2007. Many of the programs are designed to infiltrate point-of-sale systems and steal customer data that can be sold or used to make fraudulent purchases, Singletary said. The fact is, no retailer can protect customer data with 100% certainty because every store, from huge chains to small mom-and-pops, relies on computer systems that are inherently vulnerable, she said.

“Software is fallible, and software can be compromised,” Singletary said.

Little enforcement

Merchants, who usually incur the greatest losses from identity theft, often don’t pursue an investigation because it’s expensive, and the chances of solving the crime are slim, former federal prosecutor Rasch said. As a result, identity thieves usually get away with their crimes, Rasch said.

“They get to do this with impunity,” he said.

The upshot is that it’s easier and safer for an identity thief to steal $100,000 worth of credit-card numbers than it would be to shoplift an inexpensive item from the store, Rasch said.

“These crimes are going to become more numerous, and they’re going to become more sophisticated,” he said.

What thieves want

According to cyber-security expert Mark Pribish, identity thieves look for specific pieces of information:

  • User names, passwords and PIN numbers.
  • Social Security numbers.
  • Phone and utility account numbers.
  • Bank and credit account numbers.
  • Employment and student identification numbers.
  • Driver’s license and passport numbers.
  • Professional license numbers.
  • Insurance identification numbers.
  • College or university financial-aid form information.
As you’ve just learned that Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States. It can happen to anyone, anywhere – regardless of how careful you are, your age, income, or where you live — so don’t wait until you become a victim and do something to protect yourself! 
With Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our new ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

*Click here to view the article source.

* Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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Introducing First Financial’s New ID Theft Protection Products!

PennySmartDetectiveDon’t wait until you become a victim!  Think you don’t need ID Theft Protection?  Think again!

Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States.  It can happen to anyone, anywhere – regardless of how careful you are, your age, income, or where you live.

With Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, you don’t need to worry.  A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in:

  • Lost Document Replacement – includes replacing important documents that are lost, stolen or destroyed as a result of an Identity Theft event.
  • Credit Bureau Monitoring – monitors your Experian℠ credit report continuously for new or suspicious activity.
  • Score Tracker – synthesizes the credit score from the three major credit reporting bureaus and reflects a historical perspective in a monthly trend report.
  • Three-Generation (3G) Family Benefit – when a covered accountholder’s identity theft affects family members, the benefits are extended to family members, including a spouse or domestic partner, dependents under the age of 25 with the same permanent address, and parents living with the accountholder or in elder care.

Ready to enroll in ID Theft Protection?  Choose the option which works best for you.

ID Theft Protection

  • All First Financial members are eligible to enroll in ID Theft Protection
  • The Identity Theft benefits will be added to your account for a fee of $4.95 per month
  • Includes: Fully Managed Recovery, Lost Document Replacement, and 1 Credit Bureau Monitoring (Experian)

First Protection Checking*

  • Must open a First Protection Checking Account for this option.*
  • The Identity Theft benefits are included with First Protection Checking for $8.95 per  month
  • Includes: Fully Managed Recovery, Lost Document Replacement, 1 Credit Bureau Monitoring (Experian), and Score Tracker
  • Also includes the same great benefits as our Free Checking Account*

First Protection Checking with Dividends*

  • Must open a First Protection Checking with Dividends** for this option.
  •  The Identity Theft benefits are included with First Protection Checking with Dividends for $8.95 per month
  • Includes: Fully Managed Recovery, Lost Document Replacement, 1 Credit Bureau Monitoring (Experian), and Score Tracker
  •  Also includes the same great benefits as our First Class Checking Account**

To enroll in our ID Theft Protection services, stop into any First Financial branch or call 866.750.0100. Visit our webpage for additional details and information.

T.H.I.N.K First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and click here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program. A $100 minimum deposit is required to open this account.

** Account holders earn dividends on daily balances of $1,000 or more. There is no monthly service charge if a daily balance of $1,000 is maintained or if you utilize Direct Deposit or Payroll Deduction totaling more than $500 monthly, otherwise there is a $10 fee.

Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

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