Protect yourself against data breeches

Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm

The phrase “buyer beware” takes a whole new meaning given the recent data breaches at large retailers.

The phrase is applicable to those who use credit card for their purchases as hackers apparently are moving from attacking the financial services industry to retailers.

“There will be a wave of attacks on the retail industry throughout the year. The Target hack exposed how vulnerable the industry is,” David Kennedy, founder of TrustedSec, told USA TODAY.

Target reported in December that 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a breach between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15; that number was later revised to 110 million. The information stolen included card numbers, expiration dates, debit-card PINs, the embedded code on the magnetic strip, names, phone numbers, and email and mailing addresses.

All that information about you that retailers collect so that they can target their marketing is useful to identity thieves looking to steal from you.

That’s bad news for everyone. Sure, you’re usually protected if you used a credit card, but don’t think you won’t be paying the price through higher, or more, fees and interest rates at financial institutions or higher prices at retailers.

Then there’s the time involved in monitoring your accounts, arranging for new credit cards, and just dealing with the issue.

Plus, it may not go away. One security expert told the Associated Press that the information stolen might be used for phishing and getting you to click on a link that installs malware and fraudulently harvests more personal information. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to trace it back to the original breach, said Ken Stasiak, founder and CEO of SecureState.

If the past helps is any indication, these type of breaches happen quite regularly. It seems there is always someone attempting to separate you from your money using criminal means. The Identity Theft Resource Center reported 619 data breaches in 2013, affecting 57.9 million records.

What can be done?

Consumers should check credit card statements, sign up for fraud protection, ignore links on emails, even if they look authentic, order a credit report every four months. Watch for small transactions, which thieves start with to determine whether an account is active and whether they can get away with their theft.

Retailers can help suspected victims. For example, Target and Experian are offering a year of free credit monitoring (https://creditmonitoring.target.com) for victims of the data breach.

The sad part is that the attempts to get your personal and financial information will become more sophisticated and more difficult to stop.

-Green Bay Press-Gazette

Headlines of the Day