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.

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