The huge security breach that has affected Target recently appears to have been part of a broader and highly sophisticated scam that potentially affected a large number of retailers. It has now been confirmed that the attack that occurred last month has affected 40 million credit and debit card accounts and led to data theft including names and email addresses of as many as 70 million innocent customers.
Is it just a matter of time before our personal information is compromised? While many shoppers have been left feeling angry and helpless, there are some steps consumers can take to protect themselves against fraud and identity theft. After all, the best solution to a problem is prevention. Before we begin it’s important to remember that retailers are not legally required to offer credit protection services to customers and we are all responsible for continued monitoring of our credit card and bank accounts. We must continue being vigilant in recognising fraudulent emails or phone calls from people claiming to represent retailers or banks.
So, how can you protect yourself in future? Use cash instead? No. Cash can be lost or stolen with little or no recourse. Credit cards offer better protection to the card holder especially when they are used without authority, a much safer option. Here are some top tips on how to protect yourself while still using plastic.
1. Be vigilant – check your credit and debit card statements regularly and report any unusual charges, even if it’s only small. Sometimes thieves place a small charge to check if the card is active.
2. If you notice an unauthorised charge, especially if it’s a debit card, ask your provider to cancel your current card immediately and issue you a new one.
3. Consider various options for monitoring your credit profile and credit card activity. Target offers a credit-monitoring service for customers, as do other retailers.
4. Be cautious of any correspondence claiming to be from your bank or the retailer you shopped at and never give any sensitive information such as PIN numbers. Double check the URL in the correspondence you have received. If you are suspicious, report it.
5. When there has been theft of personal data, thieves will often use ‘phishing’ to convince you to part with even more personal data such as passwords. This is not only done on the phone or over email, but also social media sites such as Twitter so be warned. If you use the same password for your online banking as you do for your social media accounts then change them, you can never be too careful.
6. Too many people have simple passwords for their accounts. If this includes you, make sure you change it. If you can’t think of one, use a password generator or add some capital letters to numbers to your current password to make it stronger.
7. Shred your documents – while online fraud and data theft is growing, it’s important not to forget about correctly storing and disposing your physical documents too.
Some believe that using cash is the only solution. This is not the case. Consumers need to be aware that data security is down to their own vigilance, and they should not solely rely on their bank or financial provider to protect their information. Attacks are inevitable and will continue to happen so it’s important to be prepared and protect yourself.