For Mark Roberts’ Use: In September 2014, Home Depot experienced a data breach involving 56 million payment cards. This security attack was larger and lasted longer than the December 2013 hacking of Target’s payment system, involving 40 million credit and debit cards. About one in three people who received data-breach notification letters in 2013 became a victim of fraud. In sum, more than 13 million U.S. consumers were victimized by identity fraud in 2013, with losses on existing bank and credit-card accounts surging to about $16 billion.

Card payment systems rely on data contained in magnetic strips on the backs of payment cards. Hackers simply need to gain access to a retailer’s payment system, steal customer card data, and then sell the stolen information on the black market. Counterfeit cards are often produced, which allow criminals to drain bank accounts or make fraudulent credit card purchases. Victims are often unaware of the fraud until they notice suspicious activity on their statements, their accounts are frozen, or their bank contacts them about an overdraft. Banks and retailers have scrambled to strengthen data security, but hackers always seem to be one step ahead.

Changes are coming soon. Fortunately for consumers, the United States is catching up with other developed nations who switched to a more secure payment method called Europay, Mastercard, and Visa (EMV) years ago. Soon we will all have debit and credit cards which are embedded with a computer chip, and each transaction will be approved using a unique authorization code instead of a static card number on a magnetic strip. Essentially this means that if your information is stolen, it cannot be used again in fraudulent purchases.

Since the United Kingdom adopted EMV technology in 2004, card fraud has fallen by 67% in that nation. Retailers and banks who objected to the cost of changing their technology are beginning to see the light, thanks to liability lawsuits and the cost of making reparations after a major breach. Beginning in October 2015, U.S. merchants without secure chip-compatible readers will be responsible for fraudulent charges when chip cards have been provided.

Throughout 2015, you may begin to see chip-enabled payment terminals appearing in your favorite retail locations. But since gas stations were exempted from the new liability rule until October 2017, continue to be on alert when you stop to fill up at the pump.