Hack of the week

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Its been a drastic year for hacking, but this is by far one of the worst data preach in a decade:

Target’s disclosure that credit card thieves hacked a database of 70 million customers is a wake-up call. “It’s like an arms race for consumers’ information at this point,” said Susan Grant, an advocate for the Consumer Federation of America. It’s become standard for many retailers to ask for personal details at checkout. Then there’s online shopping, in which you have to turn over certain info. Among other things, stores want the information so they can shower you with catalogs and emails.

So my suggestion is to think twice before using any card whose magnetic stripe is not encrypted. Which includes Visa, Mastercard, Discover and other card companies:

The problem is that you are trusting the stores to safeguard it. Criminals who steal your credit or debit card information can do more damage if they have your contact information. It’s easier for them to commit fraud or even trick you into revealing more via fake emails, letters and phone calls.

Your information is “toxic” if it gets in the wrong hands, said Rob Shavell, CEO of Abine, a company whose software enhances privacy while shopping. “The more of it they store, the more it becomes a danger to the consumer and the business.”

The idea behind Abine shows just how far wholesale data collection has gone. The service lets you create a shopping avatar — with its own new phone number, address and credit card — to create more distance between you and the retailer

Today’s data breach doesn’t necessarily mean that thieves can gain access to customers’ bank or credit card accounts. But it does put them at greater risk for identity theft. There is also a risk that thieves can use the information to try to create new accounts in a customer’s name.

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