The following is a staff writer post from MikeS. He is a married father of 2. So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house. He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.
I am a pretty laid back guy. I tend to not get overly stressed or worry about things in general. So, when I saw the headlines recently about the data breach at Home Depot stores, I mainly shrugged it off. Yes, I had used one of my credit cards there during the time they were hacked. So, in theory my account information may have been compromised. The best reaction I can muster is a yawn. Why am I not more concerned? There are several ways in which I am protected, some of which I had already been doing already and one that is new since the breach was reported.
It is not quite every day, but at least every work day, I spend five minutes and log-in to my accounts to check the activity. This routine serves two purposes. The first is used for my budget tracking; I record any new activity into my spreadsheet. The second purpose is early fraud detection. Any activity that I don’t recognize, I can instantly report it and hopefully limit any damage. I have been keeping an eye on the card that may have been breached and have not noticed any unusual activity. My card company has also informed me that they also are monitoring my card for any suspicious activity.
One of the perks of my Discover It card is that it shows me my FICO credit score every month. So, I have the history of the last few months to see if there have been any changes. Since I know that I haven’t been applying for any new lines or credit or credit cards, my score should remain more or less then same. As it turns out, it has risen in the last couple of months.
My next line of defense is my actual credit report. You can check your report from the 3 main credit bureaus once per year. I do check them one per year, but I do not check all 3 at the same time. This was a trick that I learned from Crystal a few years back. I check one of the bureaus every four months. Then I wait a year and check them again. By only checking one bureau’s report at a time, I am only four months away from checking my report at a time. Granted, not every credit institution reports to all three bureaus, but I am much more likely to spot something sooner with a check every four months as opposed to every twelve months.
Credit Card versus Debit Card
Since it was my credit card that was potentially breached and not my debit card, there is some built in security. With the credit card agreement, I am not responsible for fraudulent charges as long as they are reported in a timely manner. With both myself and the company on the lookout for suspicious charges, I think we have this one covered. The hackers also do not have access to my bank account. With a debit card, they could potentially drain the checking account associated with it. This is one of the reasons I prefer a credit card to a debit card.
This is the one security measure that I started after the breach. Mind you, I am not paying for it, it was offered to me by The Home Depot. They offered to pay for one-year of service because of the breach. I did really think I needed the extra protection, but at no cost to me, why not take the insurance. The service will alert me any time a new account is opened and they have personnel to help repair any damage done to my credit history.
At the end of the day, the breach means very little to me because of the steps that I have already taken. The only real change is I receive a monthly e-mail from the monitoring firm announcing that nothing has happened. If you don’t check your credit report at least once per year, you need to start. Since I have created an excellent credit history, I want to keep it that way.