The holidays are wonderful; delicious food, thoughtful gifts, and spending time with family makes this time of year feel special. Of course, that's not to say that the whole production isn't a lot of work.
We race from one party to the next. We race to the mall, we decorate the house, and we do all of this while trying to maintain our daily routines. As a result, things like credit and debit card security are often an afterthought. That false sense of security evaporated this month when it was revealed that millions of credit and debit card numbers were stolen from Target.
First, let's stick to who was directly affected. The stolen card numbers were all used for Target purchases from November 27th of this year to December 15th. They collected all of the relevant information; everything from customer names to the little codes on the reverse side of the card. Target quickly came back and stated that the PIN numbers were safe because the hackers hadn't stolen the encryption key. Unfortunately, as most of us know, we use our cards all the time without ever entering a PIN.
So, let's all make some New Year's resolutions about protecting our money.
One way to be safer is to use credit instead of debit; as long as you immediately pay off the balance. Credit cards carry high interest rates and have confusing terms and conditions, but they do offer more fraud protection than debit. Your maximum liability for unauthorized credit card purchases is $50. The same is true for debit, but only if you notify your bank within two days. It jumps up to $500 after that and you could lose it all after sixty days.
Another way to protect yourself is by setting up a notification or alert from your bank. I receive an e-mail notification if my account value drops below a certain threshold. That way, if my debit card number is stolen and the thieves start spending, I'll know within a two day window and I can report it to my bank.
(This article contains the current opinions of the author but not necessarily those of Brighton Securities Corp. The author's opinions are subject to change without notice. This blog post is for informational purposes only. Forecasts, estimates, and certain information contained herein should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. References to specific securities and their issuers are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended and should not be interpreted as recommendations to purchase or sell such securities).