THE BLOG
10/14/2014 11:29 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Data Breaches -- What's a Poor Credit Card User to Do?

Shutterstock / Garry L.

Holy crap another credit card data breach?! What's a poor credit card user to do?

First, well first and second, it was Target. Then Home Depot and now K-Mart. These breaches are starting to be more and more common. They affect millions of card holders.

My guess is that the security measures by these companies haven't been updated for a long time. At least from my reading, the hackers hail from Russia and the Ukraine.

What can you do as a consumer to protect yourself?
Should you stop using credit and debit cards altogether?
How will you know if your credit or debit card is compromised?

So here are some suggestions for credit and debit card users to protect themselves:

1. Monitor your credit report. You really need to check your credit report regularly. By regularly I mean a minimum of once or twice per year. If any accounts have been opened using false information, this is the first place to look. Services like Credit Karma offers free daily credit monitoring and credit scores. It will notify you of any significant changes in the report.

2. Watch your credit card statements. Make it a habit to review each and every charge. Most credit cards and banks have an app for your phone making it a little quicker and easier. You can check these daily if you want. You can even set up alerts to notify you for every charge over a certain amount. That way if a crook tries to get that large flat screen TV for the big game, you'll know about it. If you do discover a fraudulent charge, notify your credit card company right away.

3. Use an identity theft service. If you want some help guarding your credit cards and identity you could subscribe to a service. Lifelock is probably the one you've heard the most about. You subscribe and they monitor and alert you if your finances or your identity are comprised. It also has a smartphone app. There services come in three different tiers from roughly $100 to $300 annually

4. Switch to cash. Cash may almost be obsolete. But every time I hear about another data breach I consider using cash. Granted you have to use a card to order from the internet or even reserve a hotel room, but for other everyday expenses it's going to require a little more planning. You'll have to make sure you have the cash on hand, and visit your local bank more often.

5. Reduce your cards and their usage. Another option would be to reduce the number of cards you use regularly, to say one. I do this, but I also have a back up card just in case. The other option is to just reduce the times you use your card. Using it only when cash is not an option.

It's becoming a war out there. You have to stay on top of your money and finances every minute of the day. Consider a few of these ideas to make it a bit easier to guard against future credit and debit breaches.

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