Minimizing the damage after retailer data breach

Millions of customer info was stolen last season

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The holiday shopping frenzy is on, and it’s been a rough year for retailers whose computers got hacked, exposing millions of customers’ banking information to cyber-thieves.

Cyber security experts warn, we could see another massive data breach this year. While there’s no way to prevent hack attacks, you can take precautions to minimize the damage.

Some shoppers continue to swipe their debit and credit cards without worry, but some are now more hesitant. One shopper said, “I think that’s what you have to do. You have to be more aware.”

Almost a year ago, Target confirmed a massive data breach that compromised millions of people’s banking information. Then Neiman Marcus, Michaels, Home Depot and Staples also confirmed similar hack attacks. Since then, many retailers have installed more secure card readers at checkout, but a Deloitte survey found that about 75% of holiday shoppers are still concerned.

Many people 22News talked to Monday night all agreed. They’d rather be extra cautious and use cash than risk getting their credit card information stolen. Sheryl Fontaine said, “I am using more cash than I have. I never use a debit card. I always would use it as credit, but I don’t even do that anymore.”

Springfield Director of Consumer Affairs Milagros Johnson told 22News major credit cards are safer to swipe than debit cards. If thieves go on a shopping spree with your debit card, that’s your money being taken out from your account. With credit cards, federal law limits your liability to $50. If you pay your credit card balance off every month, you’ll avoid interest charges.

You can also keep a close eye on your banking statements and be vigilant. According to Johnson, “Say you have a $5,000 credit limit, and you’re only going to spend $500 on your Christmas shopping, you may want to call the credit card company and say you know what, ‘I’m only going to shop for $500, don’t approve anything over that amount.’”

It’s a good idea to see if the company offers a feature that sends you an email every time your card is used. If that wasn’t you, you’ll know right away that someone else has your banking information. Johnson said, “I also get an email instantly if I use it online and the card itself is not presented at the time of purchase so consumers might want to do that.”

There are also steps to take to protect yourself if you plan to shop online. Limit your shopping time to only when you’re on your secure, home wifi-network.

Make sure you always shop on sites that have an “S” in the “HTTP” part of their web address; “S” stands for “secure.” Don’t click on pop-up ads, or links in your emails, instead type the URL directly into your web browser. “That way you’re more than likely to be directed to that website and not to a fake one or misled to some advertising,” Johnson added.

It’s also a good idea to review the site’s return policy and keep a record of all your online purchases.

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