Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Business

Simple steps to preventing or limiting data theft

Just as the shock of the widespread data breach at Target over the holidays has begun to wane, cybersecurity and other experts are warning consumers to brace for similar attacks in the coming year.

The breach at the mass merchant, which compromised card accounts and personal contact information for tens of millions of shoppers nationwide, "kind of takes your breath away," said Bill Hardekopf, CEO of the credit card marketplace LowCards.com.

"I think we are going to see more of this," he said. "This is what our culture is in for."

High-risk times for more strikes will be the next big shopping cycles that give hackers the potential for the biggest payoff, such as around Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, the back-to-school time frame and next Christmas, said Charles Wood, corporate security specialist and assistant professor of information systems management at Duquesne University.

Simple steps

Short of people chopping up their cards and filling their pockets with cash, consumers can take steps to minimize their exposure to future data heists, experts said.

First, shoppers should consider the additional risk that comes with using a debit card versus a credit card.

Thieves who get a hold of debit card data gain access to a person's bank account. And depending on the card issuer's policy, any money that comes out of the account may not be refunded right away.

"If someone's account gets drained, it may be tough to pay the bills in the next month," said Jody Farmer, vice president with the credit card comparison site CreditCards.com. "The inconvenience is potentially massive."

Big banks may provide provisional credit to compromised debit card accounts within a day or so after a customer disputes a transaction. But federal law generally allows up to 10 days for the financial institution to investigate before making any refunds, said Gerri Detweiler, personal finance expert with the educational site Credit.com.

"In the meantime, your rent might be due," she said.

"In general, the more I'm hearing about data breaches, the more leery I am about using a debit card," she said. "I've seen people have $10,000 taken out of their account."

In contrast, if fraudulent charges are rung up on a credit card, it's the bank that's out of the money.

Despite the downside of debit cards, many people prefer them over credit, often as a way to help control spending because they can't run up big bills the way they can with credit cards.

For people who can't give up their debit cards, Detweiler recommends setting up two accounts, one for spending money "and the other to put your paycheck into so you aren't exposing all of your money to scamsters."

It's also important to check debit and credit card accounts frequently online for suspicious transactions and promptly report them to minimize any damage.

Pay attention to small transactions, not just the big ones, Hardekopf said.

"A lot of times, thieves put through small amounts first to see if the account is still active," he said.

After notifying a financial institution about suspected fraud, it's also a good idea to follow up with a written complaint, Detweiler said.

Review reports

Experts also recommend that consumers regularly check their credit reports for errors or unfamiliar accounts to help detect identity theft, the type of fraud where a thief may open new credit card accounts, take out loans or commit other crimes under someone else's name. For the victim, sorting out the mess can be a nightmare.

Federal law entitles consumers to free copies of their credit reports once every 12 months from each of the three main credit bureaus, available at AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling toll free 1-877-322-8228.

One strategy is to order a free report from one of the three main bureaus every four months, said Heather Murray, manager of education with the nonprofit Advantage Credit Counseling Service in Pittsburgh.

"By doing that, you can catch identity theft sooner," she said.

Consumers should look for things like credit cards that they didn't apply for or bogus loans in their name.

The Federal Trade Commission's website, FTC.gov, is a good source of information on ID theft, Murray said.

Comments
Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other states wit...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Study: Tampa Bay homes in once ‘redlined’ neighborhoods worth half those in other areas

Times staffRedlining’ — banks’ refusal to make mortgage loans in certain areas — still has a huge effect on housing values even though the practice was banned 50 years ago. According to Zillow, a Tampa Bay house in a once-redlined area is worth less ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

Madeira Beach rethinks commitment to ferry

MADEIRA BEACH — When most members of the current City Commission ran for office they pledged to impose tighter fiscal controls on spending taxpayer dollars.It was obvious Tuesday they haven’t changed their minds. The commission’s latest target is a f...
Published: 04/25/18
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
Seminole council does full flip-flop on kratom sales

Seminole council does full flip-flop on kratom sales

SEMINOLE — In a rare move, City Council members reversed themselves on a unanimous vote to ban the sale of kava and kratom within city limits, agreeing — once again unanimously — not to bring the ordinance to a second reading.The "consensus vote" to ...
Published: 04/25/18
Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

Against neighborhood and city staff wishes, Clearwater Council greenlights storage facility

CLEARWATER — Skycrest residents showed up to City Hall recently and begged elected officials not to let a developer knock down an aging office building in their neighborhood and build a storage facility in its place.Planning and Development Director ...
Published: 04/25/18
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Published: 04/25/18