It seems as though everyone loves retail giant Target. Or, at least they used to—that all might change after this holiday season, when a potential 70 million Target customers were affected by a data breach.
“In addition to the already-known customer names, card numbers, expiration dates and the CVV three-digit security codes that were stolen, Target said the new information included in the breach now includes names, mailing address, phone numbers and email address,” reported Fox Business.
Customers affected were reported by Reuters to be both those who shopped in-store and those who bought products online. That leaves tens of millions of people wondering, “Is my identity safe?”
Unfortunately, identity theft like this (though not on this scale) happens every day. Each time we swipe our cards at the ATM, while traveling, or making purchases online, we are at risk. Luckily, there are a few easy steps that can be taken to help protect from identity theft:
Secure Your Information
Make sure that you do not allow your computer browser to auto-save your login and password information on accounts—even for non-financial accounts. It’s far too easy for a computer to become infected with a virus that steals login information—and can therefore give hackers easy access to financial data.
Use a Credit Card
Instead of paying directly from a checking account or with a debit card, use a credit card. That way, if something does happen, it’s much easier to shut down. Credit card companies are also required under federal law to have some amount of fraud protection, which means damage will be limited. On the other hand, money taken directly from a bank account can be incredibly hard to get back.
Monitor Your Accounts
It can be all too easy to only check bank account information once in a blue moon, especially if you are not on a tight financial budget. Unfortunately, failing to monitor bank accounts and statements makes you a prime target for identity theft because it will likely take some time before you to notice that something’s not right. Check your accounts frequently to ensure that your accounts are secure.
Shred old documents with account numbers and those irritating pre-approved credit card offers. Make physical copies of all important documents—social security card, passport, driver’s license, credit and debit cards, birth certificate, etc.—in case they do get stolen.
Don’t share any financial or identity information with websites that may not be secure. Hint: You can check for website security by looking for a yellow “lock” icon in the lower right-hand corner of your browser and by checking that the URL begins with an “https” and not an “http.”
Also be sure to lock mobile technology (laptops, tablets, PDAs, cell phones) using unique, strong passwords.
Exercise caution anytime you physically use your credit or debit cards, ensuring that no one’s looking over your shoulder and memorizing your pin number or password. Be on the lookout for potential scams—over email, phone, or snail mail—and don’t reveal any identity information unless you are 100% confident that you are not being scammed. Remember, it’s always better to be overly-cautious than to have your identity stolen.