It seems like we’re hearing about another major retailer or entity being hacked every other week or so these days. The latest is Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue, which estimate that as many as 5 million people may have had their credit card information compromised in a North American data breach.
Five million consumers may not seem like a lot (especially when you consider that last fall’s Equifax hack victimized more than 145 million American consumers), but considering that Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor shoppers tend to be higher-end stores that attract a more prestigious clientele, the damage has the potential to be significant.
To make things even more frightening, it’s believed that the hackers have been selling the information it took on the dark web. Oh, and just in case you still weren’t alarmed, it’s believed that the hackers began swiping this credit card information last May – this news wasn’t released by Hudson’s Bay Company, the owner of the stores, until this past weekend.
It’s important to remember that in the event of a data breach, the information that was stolen is forever out there for others to profit off of. That’s why consumers that have been affected – or believe to have been affected – need to be proactive rather than reactive when addressing such issues.
So, how can you be proactive when it comes to avoiding becoming a victim of identity theft? Here’s a look:
Communicate With the Company
Let’s face it, when a data breach happens, it stinks for affected consumers. But it also stinks for the firm that was hacked, that now faces a crisis that it must adequately manage or risk declining sales and consumer trust. That’s what Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor are currently experiencing, and part of any brand’s crisis strategy should involve an effective communication plan. On that note, if you believe you’re a victim of this hack, keep close tabs on the company, as they should be regularly updating consumers on the status of the situation, and telling them what they can and should do to protect themselves.
Cancel Your Credit Cards
So far, there’s no indication that Social Security numbers or other confidential information was stolen in the breach beyond credit card data. Noting this, you don’t have to rush to freeze your credit, as it’s unlikely that a thief will be able to open up new lines of credit under your name without a Social Security number. But, if you really want to be proactive, you can replace your credit card or cards that you’ve used at these two stores in the past. This is as easy as phoning your credit card company, explaining the situation, and asking for a new card. They should put a stop on your old one and send you a new one right away. The only hassle involved in this is having to update any online accounts you shop at with your new information (though if you want to be extra safe, you wouldn’t save any credit cards online at all).
Keep an Eye on Your Credit Information
While it’s unlikely that a thief will be able to open up any new lines of credit without your Social Security number, you should be keeping tabs on your credit report and credit statement. In terms of your credit report, you’re entitled to one free report from the three major credit bureaus per year, so there’s no reason not to ask for one annually whether you think you’ve been victimized in a data breach or not. Keep an eye out for any unusual activity and dispute any errors immediately. By keeping tabs on your personal information, it becomes a lot easier to nip any issues in the bud before they can really put a hurt on you. You can also add fraud alerts to your account or opt into any credit monitoring services to further safeguard your information.
The recent Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor hacks aren’t the first, and they certainly won’t be the last, so it’s important to know what to do regardless of the situation.