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.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.