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Data breach! Now what?

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Friday, March 30, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

A reported security breach at a major debit and credit card processor may have put up to 10 million cardholders in danger of card fraud. What if that cardholder is you?

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Global Payments Inc. suffered a security breach between Jan. 21 and Feb. 25, and 50,000 accounts may have been compromised. A blog by a former Washington Post reporter said his sources put the estimated leaked card accounts at 10 million.

Both reports say MasterCard and Visa started notifying their issuers about the possible breach last week. So far, issuers have not responded to the reports or announced they will reissue cards for customers, according the WSJ report.

Global Payments has yet to comment on the reported breach.

In the meantime, what should you do?

Continue to monitor all of your debit and credit card accounts online. You're looking for any unusual purchases, withdrawals or other transactions. If you notice something funny and can't verify it, call your card issuer to report the suspicious activity. Your issuer most likely will stop all activity on that account and reissue a new account number and card to you.

Also, call up the three major credit reporting bureaus -- TransUnion, Equifax and Experian -- if you find odd transactions on your account. Ask to have a fraud alert placed on your report. The alert tells lenders to take extra steps to confirm that you're the one requesting credit, and not someone posing as you. (This is less severe than a credit freeze.)

When you initiate a security alert, you also are entitled to free copies of your credit report from each of the big three. Look over these carefully and make sure all personal information, accounts and payment history belongs to you.

If you find irregularities in the report, you could be a victim of identity fraud rather than card takeover fraud. To find out how to deal with identity fraud, read Bankrate's step-by-step guide here.

Even if your report looks clean, you're not out of the woods yet. Check your report again six months later from all three reporting bureaus to ensure no nefarious activity has popped up. It's a good idea to pull the reports again after a year has passed.

Here's some good news, if your account is compromised: Your liability for a stolen credit card number is zero under federal law. (The maximum liability for the loss or theft of the actual credit card is $50.)

Debit card holders are only liable for transfers that happen 60 days after the bank statement with the unlawful charges is mailed and before the loss is reported. (However, debit card holders have fewer loss protections if their card is actually stolen or lost.)

Now, breathe easy and go check your accounts.

Have you been a victim of fraud? Tell me your story.

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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