What's several thousand credit card numbers between friends?

I've always believed that Google is your friend, and it is especially friendly when it's telling you that 19,000 credit card numbers are freely available on the internet. That's what happened to someone in Australia, who received a strange-looking Google Alert.

The alert was triggered by a name that was within a list of about 19,000 credit card numbers and personal information. When the person realized that thousands of credit card numbers were there for the taking on the world wide web, he tried to report it to Visa and Mastercard. Their response? None.

Again and again we hear stories of poor security leading to the compromise of thousands of credit card numbers, along with vital information. This data breach didn't just include credit card numbers, it also offered names, addresses, expiration dates, and the CVV numbers from the backs of the credit cards.

Identity theft is a rapidly growing crime, and those entrusted with our data don't seem all that bothered by the fact that our personal details are floating around out there. It's clear that we can't trust companies to watch out for us, so we need to watch out for ourselves. My advice is to keep tabs on your bank accounts and credit cards, checking them online at least once a week to make sure there's no unauthorized activity.

In addition, you should take advantage of the free credit reports you can get at annualcreditreport.com. These are truly free (and not part of some clever gimmick by a company wanting to profit from identity theft paranoia) and you can space out ordering the three reports you're entitled to during the year. Be as proactive as possible in monitoring your credit so that if your identity is stolen, you'll find out quickly and minimize the damage that you have to clean up.

Forensic accountant Tracy Coenen investigates corporate fraud and consumer scams, and is the author of Expert Fraud Investigation and Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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