Major security breach of credit cards

January 22, 2009 6:28:33 PM PST
U.S. investigators are tracking what is possibly the biggest breach of credit card information in history. Thieves hacked into a credit card processor that handles more than 100 million transactions every month, for 250,000 retailers. Already there are reports of fraudulent charges, so you should take immediate steps to protect yourself.

Cyber hackers broke into the database at Heartland Payment Systems and planted a sophisticated data stealing program. The stolen information includes credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates and internal bank codes -- everything needed to duplicate your card.

"All of a sudden their information is hacked into and there's a fraudulent charge on there and someone's getting cash advances or using the money that's available that can become a very big problem for the consumer very quickly," Consumer Credit Counseling Service spokesperson Dan Parrish said. "It could be a real mess for the consumer to clean up because if a person goes over the limit, whether on purpose or by mistake, they could be charged an over the limit fee for that, their interest rate could go up quite a bit."

People are recommended to check their credit card statements as often as possible (most banks allow you to check online every day) and immediately report any unauthorized charges.

If there is a problem, you may want to go so far as to close the account and get a new one, as well as put a freeze on your credit report, making it tougher for the hacker to open accounts in your name.

Heartland has created a Web site where you can get more information on the data breach.

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