Credit card users urged to verify account activity

Credit card users urged to verify account activity

By Dan Laidman


Don’t panic, but don’t let your guard down.

That is the message consumer advocates have for Californians who fear
they may be affected by MasterCard International’s announcement Friday
of a breach in credit card data, which may have exposed more than 40
million cards to fraudulent activity.

A combination of federal and state laws and corporate liability
policies guard most consumers from losing money as a result of this
type of fraud, according to several California-based consumer
protection groups.

"In the U.S., MasterCard cardholders are protected by MasterCard’s Zero
Liability policy for unauthorized transactions on their accounts,"
MasterCard International said in a written statement Friday. "If
MasterCard cardholders have any reason to believe that their cards were
used fraudulently, they should contact their issuing bank."

In a written statement sent to the Times late Friday, Visa USA said
that some Visa account information has been compromised by the security
breach. Visa, which is based in Foster City, said that it, too, has a
zero liability policy protecting cardholders against paying for
unauthorized purchases.

To be safe, consumers may want to check what has recently been charged
to their credit cards, said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights
Clearinghouse, a San Diego-based nonprofit group.

"They may want to go online tomorrow and see if there’s anything that
looks suspicious," she said. "But I would tell people don’t worry about
it, you will be notified by the company, most likely by the bank that
is carrying that card."

Michael McCauley, a San Francisco-based spokesman for the Consumers
Union, the nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine,
also advises that people scrutinize their credit card statements for
any unusual transactions.
"Make sure all the charges are yours, and, if you notice any
unauthorized charges on your statement, immediately bring that to the
attention of your cardholder so you can dispute that charge," he said.

To stay as safe as possible in the event of future breaches, Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California recommends
that people take advantage of a California law that allows cardholders
to prevent card issuers from sharing their information with third

California cardholders should receive an annual notice about the law,
Holober said, and most financial institution Web sites have information
on how to opt out of information sharing.

Holober also notes that under a recent federal law, consumers can
access their credit reports free of charge each year from the major
credit reporting agencies.

"I would encourage everyone to get their credit reports on a regular
schedule," he said. "You want to look at that very closely for anything
you don’t recognize."


‘ California Office of Privacy Protection:

‘ Consumer Federation of California:

‘ Consumers Union:

‘ Privacy Rights Clearinghouse: