7 Real Talk Tips to Prevent a Cyber Attack on Your Wallet

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December 20, 2013 by Abby Ferri

Hi, my name is Abby, and I’m addicted to Target. 

I shop at Target in California as if it’s an amazing feat that a Minnesota company has a store out here. I have had great success in proselytizing many SoCal natives into Target devotees. I like to think that people behind me in line are so wowed by the discounts I earn through coupons, the Target Cartwheel app and my Target Red card that they download the app while they wait and sign up for a Red card immediately. Target should really be paying ME.

I was just a little bummed to hear about the recent data breach at Target that is supposed to impact nearly 40 MILLION Target shoppers who swiped a card of any kind at a Target between Thanksgiving and December 15.

To the people who are horrified that this can happen, I’d like to introduce you to my ghost of a Christmas past. In 2005, my debit card information was stolen in a similar manner as the current Target hack, but from my bank’s ATM. An inside job, just as they’re reporting the Target scheme is. I didn’t notice until 3 days later, when the hacker had thoroughly cleaned out my account. Back in those olden days, there were no smart phones with bank apps that you could check multiple times each day like I do now. 

To the people who are horrified, please look at a calendar. We are approaching 2014. Take control of your credit, debit, and your banking information. 

To the people who are horrified, here are some easy tips so you can shop at Target, or anywhere, again with no fear:

1. Look at your bank account information at least once each day. In times like now, if you know you could possibly be a victim, look at that activity closely. The folks who pulled this Target scheme will take or spend small amounts of money in the hopes you won’t notice and cancel the card, thus canceling their fun. If they get away with some small charges, they’ll go for a big one. My debit card was hacked a few months ago, the weird charge was $45 with the CA Fish and Wildlife Fund. Something benign, but undoubtedly fraudulent!

2. Change your passwords and PIN frequently. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass. But, the hackers get into the keypads that you swipe your card into and can somehow figure out your PIN and then they take your card # and PIN and make their own card. Crazy huh? So, change your PIN. 

3. Monitor your credit report. There are many ways you can pull free credit reports throughout the year. There’s multiple sources of credit reports, at least three big ones: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. That’s 3 free credit reports for next year. Using apps like Credit Karma will monitor your credit all year and allow at least one free credit report. 

4. Choose “credit” when the clerk asks you “credit or debit?” This way, you don’t need to key a PIN into the keypad. 

5. Don’t sign your cards. A further precaution after choosing credit, in stores where their policy is to actually LOOK at your card: if you did not sign the back, you will be required to show ID that matches the name on the card. 

6. Do not let your card out of your sight! This is a tough one, especially if you’re going out to bars or restaurants. You can take the chance, or plan ahead and have cash. Or, let one of your friends send their card off into space to open a tab if you must!

7. Plan ahead and pay in cash. It’s fun to walk around with some cash. It’s also a secure way of conducting transactions. I’ve found that carrying cash also helps me budget a la Dave Ramsey’s envelope system. No card or PIN needed, just that paper yo. 

I realize these tips aren’t earth-shattering and you may have heard them before. How many times do you have to hear them before you finally DO something?? (yes you, go now!)

I don’t follow all of these tips all of the time, but I most definitely follow some of them most of the time.

Lifestyle factors help – when I was going out to bars and restaurants all the time, sending my card behind the bar or behind the server’s curtain, I had at least 3 times that my card was hacked and $500+ was stolen. Fortunately, my bank is/was awesome and put the money back on the card immediately once the fraud was reported. Again, that was a few years ago, olden times. Now, cyber hacking of cards is so widespread. The fraud response is a little slower and not as customer-centric. YOU must take control and monitor your accounts and be proactive. Your bank is a business and your security is not necessarily their priority. 

Let me know what tips you plan to do right away or if you have any of your own tips. 

Good luck! 

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2 thoughts on “7 Real Talk Tips to Prevent a Cyber Attack on Your Wallet

  1. Mat Piers says:

    Wow, scary. I don’t think I’ve ever had my credit card hacked but small amounts definitely could have got away from me. There’s also an increased risk of mobile RFID theft these days with syndicates swiping the chip in your card while it’s in your wallet, in your pocket. Another tip could be to buy an RFID protected wallet or card slip to protect from this.

    • abbyferri says:

      Good point on the RFID!! I try to pay with cash whenever possible, but carrying around cash is also a hazard. For larger purchases, I use Amazon so I can read reviews first and I love the 2-day shipping with Prime.

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