Chick-fil-ASome of you might be eating less “chikin” in the new year after learning about an apparent payment card breach at fast food joint Chick-fil-A. This latest in the apparently endless run of retail and restaurant security breaches was reported earlier in the week by security blogger Brian Krebs. When reached for comment, the restaurant admitted it had been notified and was working with IT security firms and law enforcement to determine whether a breach had occurred and the extent.

Were all Chick-fil-A locations breached?

Although the exact numbers won’t be known until the investigation is complete, it appears that only a small number of the restaurant chain’s locations were affected. Chick-fil-A has over 1,800 restaurants across the U.S., but according to Krebs, the majority of the breach seems to be contained within Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas and Viginia. Once the investigation is complete, the company will likely update its website with a full list of all stores affected so customers can determine if they have been compromised or not. In the meantime, Chick-fil-A has set up a page on its site with up-to-date information and a FAQ related to the investigation.

Steps for protecting yourself against data breaches

It’s generally impossible to know straight away whether you have been a victim of a breach like Chick-fil-A’s. Sometimes, financial institutions that realize customers’ cards have been stolen will send out new cards to be on the safe side. But that isn’t always the case, so it’s important to remain vigilant at all times. How can you stay safe?

1. Monitor your bank and credit card statements. This is the No.1 rule of payment card breach protection. If you have a debit or credit card and use it, then you should be monitoring your statements closely each month. It can be easy to let this slip and only glance over statements after a breach has been reported, but often breaches are reported long after the fact — which can wreak havoc on your bank account or credit. People who pay close attention to their statements are likely to catch fraudulent charges far earlier than their financial institution might. After all, if you know that you didn’t spend $100 at an electronics store last Tuesday, you can call your bank or credit card company immediately to report the charge as fraudulent and stop the criminal in their tracks.

2. Use credit over debit. Another great way to proactively protect yourself in the face of payment card breaches is to use your credit card whenever you can. There are more reasons than fraud protection to do this, but the fact remains that having your credit card stolen will probably carry less of a financial hit than your debit card. Think about it: your debit card is directly linked to your bank account, so a thief with access to the card number could drain your bank account and rack up hundreds or thousands in charges that you might wind up responsible for. In the meantime while you wait for your bank to investigate, you could be left with no money to live on. On the other hand, you are protected by federal law against fraudulent credit card charges.

3. Sign up for identity theft protection. Stay one step ahead of would-be identity thieves with this service, which can include instant alerts in the case of suspicious activity on your credit/debit accounts, social security number, name, address and more. Many of the top-rated services monitor your information on the Internet black market to ensure it isn’t being traded, sold or used maliciously, and some even provide updated credit scores and reports so you know what’s up with your credit. Plans for most of these services cost less than $20/month, which is worth it to have identity theft protection on your side.

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