Thursday, December 19, 2013

Target Hacked: Are You Safe?

 The better question to ask is your debit card safe?

Perhaps you’ve heard about shoppers who used debit and credit cards at Target for their holiday shopping having their data hacked. To learn more here is the full article. People who suspect they could be victims are to call credit card agencies and change their ATM numbers. This is a consumer’s worst nightmare especially so close to the holidays.

Trust me; I know the feeling. My debit card number was hacked at a routine refill at a Meijers' pharmacy. I heard about it on television before I found out I was a victim.  Foolishly, I thought those card readers at the register were so much safer than the old fashion carbon paper slide device for credit cards.

I stood transfixed watching the reporter explain that a ring of Meijers' employees downloaded the credit card numbers from the machine each night. This was standard procedure. Then eight employees would charge gift cards for either $25 or $50. Most people could accept they spent that much at Meijers and didn’t question the charge.

Of course, once they had the number and the pin number. They would go back and charge more gift certificates. That was their downfall.  Apparently, some people wondered about the mysterious charges and contacted Meijers. My phone rung as the news story continued only to find out I was a victim.

I quit using my debit card with the numbers. If I use it, I run it as credit.  My credit card company protects me more. Often refusing to run a charge when I am out of state, I have to call and verify it’s me. Of course, that wouldn’t have helped at the local Target or Meijers, which are both in my town.

The message I received from this retail disaster is that cash is your best option. You don’t spend as much. Some gas station and groceries have started adding a surcharge for using a debit card. All these little charges add up. Right now, I am glad I didn’t go to Target. However, online Target purchases were safe because of the encryption used.

Think about everyone who handles your credit information. This process happens at gas stations, groceries, retail stores, even credit card agencies. I had a friend who had her identity stolen by a credit card employee. Another lost her identity to a travel agent who planned her honeymoon. 

Knowing all this, check out who gives out your information easily. It could be you! Discover card never ever uses your entire number. It isn't on you card or even in your account. You are identified by your last four numbers. 

Many credit cards uses your entire number on your statement. This is important because felons are shopping your mailbox for this information. Some companies try to make your statement look less like a statement. Still, the greatest culprit is the consumer who throws the stub into the garbage can. People do search your trash and dumps for this type of information. This is the reason for paper shredders. As bad as someone getting your credit card number is, getting your debit card is worse.

If someone gets your ATM number your bank won’t reimburse you for the money shifted out of your account. Not knowing what happened immediately adds on overdrawn fees, which makes the situation even more dire. 

Remember the bank telling you never to give your pin number to anyone? A close friend lost her entire savings due to using an ATM in front of an alleged friend. While she didn't give him the number, he paid attention, then lifted her card later and cleaned out her account. Be paranoid about your ATM number.

Another thing about the dangers of debit cards is charges don’t show up immediately. Some businesses will take up to a week to post. That money you think you have as available balance might not be so available at all.

It’s something to consider.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday Vs. Cyber Monday

Bagged any bargains on Black Friday?  A cartoon circulating on Pinterest has a woman touting Black Friday is for amateurs. Real professionals shop year around. It’s good for a laugh, but how true is it?

Secrets Behind Black Friday Sales
1.       Prices started going up in October, so they could be slashed on Black Friday.
2.       Some of those great prices offered included a rebate. Over 60% of the people never even do the paperwork to fill out the rebate form. Another 8-12% do it wrong and do not get the rebate. This is a pretty sweet deal for the manufacturer. They offer a sale that few cash in on.
3.       Limited quantities. Ask my parents about that who stood in the cold at 4am to get a computer, that the story only had four to sell. Unfortunately, they were number five in line.
4.       Knock off brands. The amazing price is on a cheap version of the original manufactured exclusive for Christmas. Quits working shortly after, surprise, you cannot get it fixed or replaced.
5.       This was no great sale. It was the price that the manufacturer set to make a profit.
6.        Refurbished items often masquerade as new items. The ad may not mention it, except in six font buried somewhere in the description. It depends on how you feel about refurbished items.  My stepfather prefers them because he insists they went back to be refurbished because of an issue. The refurbished item has the issue worked out. This is especially good if it comes with a warranty. (I bought a refurbished camera that lasted for years until I lost it in a move.)
7.       The store may intend to slash prices even more it you can wait.

Cyber Monday: What's Good about It?

1.       No taxes if you should a store that is exclusively online.
2.       Free shipping. (If you aren’t getting it today, shop elsewhere)
3.       Home delivery
4.       Flash sales. Some people might not think these are great, but you have the option of low discounts for a couple of hours. (Amazon at least lets you know what is going to be on sale and when.)
5.       Shopping from your home or office
6.       Low prices—last year I bought popular blue-ray movies for $3 each.
7.       Safety-no fears of being trampled or involved in a shoving match

Shopping online today, check out Ebates and Retailmenot for additional discounts. It always helps to get a little extra off.

Reflecting back on my first Black Friday, I was barely nineteen shopping at the Fashion store and I had my hands on a pair of purple jeans for my sister.  The jeans would be perfect for my stylish sister and the price met my meager budget too.  As I admired the jeans, a small elderly woman grabbed onto them. She shouted at me that she had them first and she was a great grandmother.  Shocked at the woman’s behavior and determination, I gave up the jeans.  Technically, I knew I had my hands on the jeans first, but refused to get in a tug of war with an elderly woman. I can’t remember what I bought my sister that year. Whatever it was it wasn’t worth getting into knockdown fights over it. Maybe this is one of the reasons I am embracing Cyber Monday.