How to Protect Yourself in the Era of Frequent Data Breaches


If you shop frequently with your bank’s debit card, it’s possible you’ve replaced your card at least once in recent years because of reported data breaches. It may not even be your personal information that’s been compromised, but that of an entire corporation, such as a popular shopping chain such as Target or Best Buy.

According to, both small and large businesses are looking for better databases to avoid being hacked for their customer information. But you can still take a few steps to make it more difficult for your own information to be breached.

Use cash or a pre-paid card whenever possible

The odds of getting victimized by a hacker are higher if you use your debit card every day. Switch to withdrawing money with your account at the bank and spending it as necessary.

You could also try using a pre-paid credit card at various stores. If this card gets breached by chance, there will be little or no money left on it. A debit card, on the other hand, instantly links a thief to your personal account.

Check the mail

It’s possible to suffer a data breach when you don’t even know it. If your mailbox suddenly has unusual correspondence, such as messages from from credit cards or companies you aren’t familiar with, it’s vital to figure out why they’ve turned up there.

Call your bank or credit card provider to verify whether activity has occurred in your account. They can freeze the account immediately and protect your money.

Stay aware of your surroundings

When you visit an ATM at a bank or convenience store, look around for any people or unusual cameras. The ATM itself should have cameras, but lenses pointed directly at the keypad are suspicious.

In those cases, the ATM could be sabotaged with a camera to steal your PIN and card information. Only visit well-illuminated ATMs that are nicely maintained to minimize the chance of a potential hack.

Got a password?

Most consumers access their credit and debit accounts using the Internet, which requires a password to see the information. It’s smart to change these passwords several times a year to avoid hackers moving into your account.

Avoid easy passwords with only numbers or letters. Add in symbols and capital letters. Ask your bank about issuing a new PIN for your card at least once a year. It may have to issue an entirely new card, but you’ll have an extra safeguard against fraud.

The old-fashioned paper trail

It’s much easier to snatch identity information off a computer, but some thieves still use the old-fashioned method of going through the trash. So you’ll want to shred any sensitive documents with names, addresses, and other identification info.

Thieves will use nearly any piece of information to break into accounts. Protecting yourself from paper and computer identity theft is a dual function everyone should pursue.

From using old-fashioned shopping habits to simply looking around, your purchasing power doesn’t have to be vulnerable to credit and debit card breaches. Use common sense when buying items online and typing in your debit card number.

It may just be easier to use a pre-paid card to avoid any issues with your bank or missing funds. Data breaches hurt businesses, consumers, and issuing banks alike.

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