Last December, millions of consumers busily rang up more than $600 billion in holiday purchases. Unfortunately, hackers were also having a field day — at consumers’ expense. We learned that lax security procedures combined with an insecure payment mechanism resulted in as many as 110 million shoppers at retail giant Target having their personal information compromised.
In the world of fraud fighting, the release of the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Data Book is something of a wonky holiday. Yesterday was no exception, with the agency publishing the annual report, which examines trends in the 2 million-plus complaints the FTC receives annually. The headline of the report was depressingly familiar: identity theft continued to be the biggest driver of complaints to the FTC for the 14th straight year.
Americans assume that, when they shop, their personal financial information will be kept private and away from identity thieves. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, as evidenced by the more than 4,000 data breaches that have been reported since 2005 -- an average of more than one a day over the last nine years. The latest headline-making breach involving the mega retailer Target is making many of us wonder just how safe our data is.
During the busiest shopping time of the year – the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas – Target, one of America’s largest retailers, suffered the second biggest data breach in U.S. history as 40 million credit and debit cards were compromised.
From smart phones to tablet computers, to the hundreds of channels and thousands of on-demand video offerings on TV, consumers have never had more options for how to spend their time. For parents, however, the amount of content that is out there can often lead to anxiety – about what their children watch on TV, what Web sites they are visiting and who they are talking to from behind all those electronic screens. So what’s a concerned parent to do?
Social networking sites enable people to post information about themselves and communicate with others around the world. While you can make new friends through social networking sites, you may also be exposed to embarrassing situations and people who have bad intentions, such as hackers, identity thieves, con artists, and predators.
Computers and the Internet have changed our lives in many ways: how we keep in touch, learn, work, shop, pay bills, and even keep track of our accounts. But with the advantages come risks; your computer contains sensitive information, and it’s up to you to protect it!
It’s frightening to lose your wallet or discover that someone has used information about you for a fraudulent purpose. Don’t panic — help is available. You will need to remain calm, cool, and collected as you go through the process of resolving the problem.
How would you feel if you were stopped for a traffic violation and suddenly found yourself being handcuffed and taken to jail for a crime you never committed? Or if you got a nasty call from a collection agency for a car loan you never had? Or if your application for a home mortgage was turned down because of information in your credit report about overdue bills on accounts you never opened?