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Security breach: How to protect your credit

(MoneyWatch) Last week's big news was the disclosure that a major security breach might have exposed millions of credit cards to hackers. Credit card processing company Global Payments has been hit by hackers, with an unknown number of credit cards compromised. The problem is serious, as Global Payments is one of the largest nationwide processing companies, and has interacted with all the major cards, including Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

So is there any way to tell if your own cards have been affected?

Processor: Breach impacted less than 1.5M cards
Credit card security breach: What do you do?

Not directly. But there are a few things you can do to monitor your credit and make sure that your cards aren't being used without your permission.

Check your monthly statements. This should be a no-brainer, but the reality is that many people -- and even small businesses -- don't rigorously check their credit card balances each month. It's a best practice to ensure you don't have unauthorized purchases.

Request your annual free credit report. You are eligible for one free credit report each year. If you haven't done it yet, go ahead and request one now here.

Change your access information. This won't directly avoid problems stemming from the Global Payments breach, but you should change your password for your credit card log-in information. Do this especially if you share a single password with multiple financial sites.

Remember that if you do find something amiss, you should contact your credit card company right away -- you're only responsible for the first $50 in charges, and credit card companies will sometimes waive even that for cases of fraud or theft.

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