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Data Security: Lessons Learned

February 5, 2014, 10:00 PM by Brady Mallory

Data Security: Lessons Learned

It really was not too long ago when Beverly Dobbin used cash for everything.

"The first time I used a credit card at the grocery store, I was embarrassed because I was thinking people thought I didn't have money to pay for the groceries," Dobbin said.

Well, times have changed.

"Everybody uses credit cards.  I mean, everything you do is with a credit card. From the grocery store, to the gas station, to airline tickets; everything," Marc Tobias, Security Expert, said.

With our constant credit/debit card use, you have probably realized you are not the only one who can access the money in your bank accounts.  This has been on the minds of millions of Americans following data breaches at Target, Neiman Marcus, and other retailers.

The problem with using credit or debit cards, as Tobias points out, is how they are designed.  The current standard in America, cards with magnetic stripes, make it easier for hackers to copy and find weaknesses in store software, allowing them to drain your bank accounts. 

"Essentially, the thieves have figured out they can sit in Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania - which are real hotspots for thieves and they can make really a lot of money doing this and a lot of times they're immune from prosecution because of the jurisdictions and difficulties catching them," Tobias said.

With that in mind, and given the fact most of us leave a cyber paper trail by using credit and debit cards, how do you keep tabs on your bank account security?

"I check my account every day," Dobbin said.

Dobbin said consistently going online to review her account information is just the responsible thing to do, and she also takes a few second looks after she buys something. She uses credit cards, but does not keep a debit card.  Dobbin is a good example of being diligent when it comes to keeping tabs on your money, but Tobias says even checking every day may not be enough to protect you from fraud or identity theft.

"It is a nightmare, and you may not know about if your credit reports aren't monitored every minute of every day then you don't know if bad guys are opening accounts. With your social security or date of birth and charging a lot and you get the bill or you don't pay it. All of a sudden you have negative information on your credit card," Tobias said.

Tobias recommends signing up for email alerts that will notify you after every purchase you make. 

There is a bit of hope. America is currently transitioning from magnetic stripe cards to cards with computer chips, which are now used in Europe. Tobias said the chips make it much harder for criminals to steal your information. This may cost you in the long run. Switching is an expensive endeavor. Our current ATM machines and point of sale devices are not built for it, which will end up costing retailers and banks a lot of money for new equipment. Eventually, Tobias said you may see the price tag.

"Let's hope that it reduces fraud in America, which means the banks don't have to charge more for account services. The problem is, the banks make money on overdraft fees, on all these hidden fees. You know, they're nickel and diming everybody to death and they're banks, they're going to keep doing that. They're in business to make a profit," Tobias said.

Target and Neiman Marcus officials have been testifying on Capitol Hill regarding recent data breaches. Tobias said these thefts have made Americans aware of their bank information vulnerability, but says these types of incidents have been, and will continue to happen. 

"There is no more privacy. There is no more secrecy. Welcome to the 21st century," Tobias said.

That statement is not lost on this mother of four. Dobbin, who very carefully monitors her own information, knows you cannot go overboard when it comes to your financial safety.

"It's just the way of life anymore. I think we have to be careful, take precautions, but I don't know if there's whole lot we can do about it to make it safer," Dobbin said.

For more information, check out the Deparment of Justice website.

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