The data breach at Target stores that jeopardized millions of debit card accounts earlier this month has caused some folks to take a closer look at how they make their purchases.
Target officials reported that as many as 40 million credit and debit cards used by customers of the discount store chain had been compromised by computer system hackers between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Information obtained from the card security breach included names, card numbers and security codes, and just last week Target confirmed some personal identification numbers (PIN) were also stolen.
The incident points up another good reason for using cash to make purchases, said William Borman, 56, of Marietta.
"It's just common sense. Anytime you swipe that card through a reader you're running a risk," he said. "I only use my card at my bank's ATM machine, at stores I use cash."
Marietta resident Kim Campbell, 54, agreed.
"Use cash, it's much better," she said. "I have a debit card, but only use it to take cash out of my banking account. I would rather use cash for purchases rather than use a card that has a lot of my personal information on it."
Credit breach protection
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recommends the following steps for consumers to protect themselves from a credit or debit card security breach:
Check your credit card and debit card accounts regularly. Monitor your accounts to look for suspicious activity, such as charges you don't remember making. If you find any errors, immediately notify your credit or debit card provider.
Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion - to place an initial fraud alert, which will stay on your credit report for 90 days. The alert is free of charge and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze essentially puts a lock on your credit so that most third parties can't access your report. This will help protect you from unauthorized accounts being opened in your name. In Ohio, security freezes are permanent until you lift them. There is a $5 fee per credit reporting agency to place the freeze and to remove it each time you apply for credit. Contact each credit reporting agency to place or to learn more about a security freeze.
Check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Individuals who find evidence of identity theft, such as fraudulent credit card charges, credit reporting errors, or unauthorized accounts, should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit by calling 800-282-0515. The Identity Theft Unit helps victims rectify the effects of identity theft.
More information is available at the Ohio Attorney General's website, www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov, or by calling 800-282-0515.
Source: The Associated Press and Ohio Attorney General's Office.
The Target data breach impacted debit and credit cards used to purchase items in the company's stores, while the cards of online shoppers were reportedly unaffected. Security experts said information obtained from the compromised cards was accessed from the magnetic stripe common on most credit and debit cards issued in the U.S.
Data gathered by the hackers could be used to generate fake credit cards sold on the black market to buy merchandise across the globe, according to the Associated Press.
Debit and credit cards used in mostcountries throughout the world now have an imbedded microchip, instead of a magnetic stripe, that contains the card-bearer's personal information. The chip also includes additional encryption that makes it almost impossible for breaches similar to what occurred at Target this month.
But in the U.S., only about 1 percent of the credit cards issued have the imbedded chips.
Bobbi Nunn, 41, of Newport said debit and credit cards are easy prey for criminals.
"That's why we decided not to use them a long time ago," she said. "There's just too much personal information that people can get into through computer systems. So we always deal in cash, money orders, or pre-paid credit cards."
Nunn said people don't realize how much information they're giving away to companies simply for the privilege of carrying a credit card.
Ashley Perry, 26, of Marietta said her bank provides a notification service in case a credit or debit card is being used without her authorization.
"We bank with Chase and anytime my card is compromised they notify us," she said. "We've only had that happen once, and the bank sent us a new card right away."
Her husband, James Perry, 35, said the couple uses their debit cards for purchases in some areas but not in others.
"We don't use the card at gas stations," he said. "People filling up right next to you can easily access information from by watching when you swipe a card at the pump."
Ashley added that it's a good idea to keep tabs on your debit or credit card activity.
"I track our accounts regularly-almost every day," she said.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says that's good advice and recommends monitoring credit and debit card accounts for any suspicious activity.
He suggests having fraud alerts added to warn consumers of any fraudulent activity on their card accounts.
DeWine said any evidence of identity theft or other credit and debit card fraud should be immediately reported to his identity theft unit at 800-282-0515.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.