Target data breach: Use fear to protect yourself

Latest data breach points out need for consumer vigilance

The data breach at Target has customers concerned about their personal information's safe-keeping.
The data breach at Target has customers concerned about their personal information's safe-keeping.

It's going to be a constant battle! Us against them! Consumers versus hackers!

Whether its the Target security breach or some other store the next time around, the threat to our personal information is here to stay.

"I would suggest that, not only do you maintain your vigilance now, you maintain that vigilance months and months down the line," said Lewis Langham, a former state police detective and professor at Cooley Law School.

Right now, it's the breach affecting 40 million customers at Target making news. However, there have been larger breaches in the past, and there will be new breaches in the future. The only defense the Target customers have now is the same security backup you should be doing regularly.

"You should always monitor your credit card statement. You should get credit card alerts on your email, on your phone of suspicious activity," advised Langham when he spoke to Ruth to the Rescue.

As the Local 4 consumer unit has reported in the past, the only protection you really have against credit and debit fraud is to be vigilant at all times by monitoring all your accounts.

In this case, Langham does suggest if you used your debit card at Target between November 27th and December 15th, you should change your pin number. He also says its a basic rule of thumb that you should be more careful about where you use that debit card.

"It's your money, if your debit card is used," he pointed out, meaning if hackers used your credit card for fraudulent purposes, they're using the bank's money. If they steal money from your debit card, it comes out of your personal account. You'll get that money back, but it might take a while, which can be very inconvenient.

Waiting Game, Fraud Watch Continues For Months

Otherwise, it's a waiting game to see if you might be a victim of fraud. Here's what you should be doing, following the Target breach and all year long.

*Check account activity regularly. (Our consumer producer checks his accounts about twice a week)
*You can check on line to review recent charges, or call your bank and review recent purchases.
*If you spot something suspicious, you should call your bank right away.

*You are NOT responsible for fraudulent charges on your account, if you report them as soon as possible.
*If you have more than one card, designate a credit card to use at gas stations, stores, and for other everyday purchases. The less often you swipe your debit card, the less likely hackers will ever get access to your actual bank accounts.
*Always safeguard your PIN numbers. Don't store them in your phone.

Ruth to the Rescue has contacted several major banks and credit card companies. All of them say they are remaining vigilant and monitoring their customers' accounts. They say they will notify customers if they spot any suspicious activity, but remind you that you should be checking your accounts regularly, and reporting any questionable charges immediately.

Finally, because this breach took place during the busy holiday season, Lewis Langham, a former state police detective and professor at Cooley Law School says be extra vigilant when checking your accounts.

"If you're going to miss something, you're going to miss it now because there's so much spending place. So, if there's any time to really, really key in on every expenditure, this is the time!"

However, he also cautions there can be a lag time between the security breach and the fraudulent activity. That threat means you will have to watch your accounts for months and months into the future.

Those risk bring us back to the beginning of this article. It's us against them, and we need to keep watching and protecting ourselves all the time. Hackers, thieves, and fraudsters are never going to stop trying to make a quick buck at your expense.


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