Even If You Practice Safe Credit and Debit Shopping Habits, You Could Still be a Target of Fraud
Today, 11 people were indicted for stealing more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers. The 11 people were part of a crime ring that spanned across the globe. Three people were from the United States, two from China, and the rest from Eastern Europe. How is something on this scale even possible?
The hackers allegedly hacked into the computer systems of nine major U.S. retailers. Once inside the systems, they were able to install software that could track and log the card information that was used for the transaction. So, even if you were shopping in a retail store, in person, and the cashier even verified your signature or you used a secure PIN code, your data could have unknowingly found its way into the hands of thieves.
The Stores Affected
Nine major retailers were affected:
- T.J. Maxx
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- Boston Market
- Barnes & Noble
- Sports Authority
- Forever 21
If you do, or have shopped at any of these locations in the past and used a credit or debit card, you should pay close attention to the charges on your bill or for unusual activity in your checking account linked to a debit card. It’s unsure at this time how long the “sniffing” programs were in place collecting the numbers, or how far the numbers have been distributed, so it’s best to be aware and monitor your activity closely. It also might not hurt to grab a free credit report or even request a new card from the issuing company.
This could actually explain the fraudulent activity we had on a MasterCard debit card last year. My wife’s debit card had a few suspicious charges on it one day and the bank called to alert us and cancel the charges. I thought that was odd since we never use that debit card online for anything, so I had no idea how the numbers could have been stolen. And my wife had the card in her possession when the charges were made, so for the longest time it was a mystery. But looking at the list of retailers, there is a good chance she used her card at DSW, Marshall’s, or Barnes & Noble at some point since those are stores we shop at occasionally.
Be Careful Out There
As you can see, there are ways for people to obtain your sensitive information even if you are vigilant in keeping your information safe while trying to prevent identity theft. Hackers can work from around the world to snatch your data right out from under you while shopping at your local store. Make sure you’re regularly checking your credit report and keeping an eye on the transaction details on your credit or debit accounts. It could happen to anyone.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
I was very concerned about this and had a look at alternatives for making online payments. I came across a site called Check out with cash.
It allows cash payments across 48,000 offices in the US and charges only $4.95 to charge up $500. In this credit crunch market it looks a great idea, and I guess from a security stand point it works too.
Only problem for me is that it is only available in the US!
Natalie, I haven't encountered many dates either, but one article I read did say that this group was under investigation since 2006. So, I would assume that this meant they knew, or had the ability to obtain these numbers as early as then, or possibly earlier.
So it wouldn't surprise me to think that using your card a few years ago at one of these stores could have compromised it.
I've heard this news story mentioned a few times, but nobody gives a time frame for when the thefts occurred. I have shopped at both Barnes and Noble and DSW within the last two years using my debit card. In November, in a way still unknown to me, someone somehow used a copy of my debit card (that I didn't even know existed) and my PIN at an ATM machine to empty my checking account.
I never lost my debit card, never loaned it to anyone, and there isn't a living soul on earth other than me who knows the PIN. A scam like this seems to be the only explanation.
It seems that many companies are becoming somewhat careless in the way they handle consumers' sensitive information. Unfortunately, the reality is that anyone can become a victim of identity theft, not just those who shop online (the way it was once thought of). Everyone needs to be proactive in protecting themselves and be aware of the consequences of having their information compromised. I wrote a brief on this subject a few months ago in the hopes that some people would realize that they have the ability to insulate themselves and takes steps to ensure that they do not become victims:
This is at least the second time for DSW and Marshall's/TJ Maxx. It's the reason I quit shopping at DSW--when it happened before, it was because they were retaining credit card numbers for ridiculous amounts of time past the transaction. I'm surprised that it happened again to the same companies.
It never seems to stop amazing me how criminals get access to info. Had the computers been secure with encruption program then this would never happen.
Wow. That is incredible. I was reading an article on a company called 'Pay By Touch'. They had implemented fingerprint readers in stores in the US. Unfortunately they went out of business, but it seems that a solution like this is required urgently. We are told, time and time again that our data is safe but if a company like Barns & Nobel cannot provide adequate protection, who can?