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Combating security breaches

Posted March 26, 2014 in Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

We live in a convenience-hungry world. We use the drive-through for dinner, warm up food in the microwave, use individually packaged products and swipe our credit and debit cards instead of carrying cash. But it can put our financial information at risk when hackers get our credit card numbers and/or other personal information. Credit and debit cards are perfectly safe to use, as long as you remain a responsible consumer.

In light of the recent Target security breach that is affecting upward of 40 million debit and credit cards, we’ve compiled this Q and A to let you know what happened and what you can do to protect yourself from hackers in the future.

Q: What exactly happened at Target?

A: Thieves gained access to credit/debit card numbers along with encrypted personal identification numbers, through malicious software that was installed on Target’s checkout terminals.

Q: What do I need to do now?

A: Laws and regulations limit a consumers liability to just $50. If you notice charges you did not make on any statements, contact your card issuer or credit union (not Target) immediately.

Q: When thieves steal my credit information, do they have access to my Social Security number also? Is my identity at risk?

A: Reports don’t indicate that personal information other than credit and debit card numbers and encrypted PIN numbers were compromised. offers a free credit report every 12 months from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Q: Should I stop using my credit and debit cards?

A: Banks, credit unions and retailers frequently research and improve security measures to minimize consumer risk.  Here are some things you can do to protect your money and your accounts:
• Never give out your account or credit/debit card numbers to anyone unless you are the one who initiated the communication and you are confident in the integrity of the entity you’ve contacted.

If you suspect your account has been breached, contact the credit union and request a new card.
• Change your PIN occasionally and don’t use an easy-to-guess number such as a birthday or street address number.
• Reconcile your account monthly to ensure all charges are legitimate.
• Report any questionable charges to your card issuer immediately.

Credit and debit cards are convenient to carry and easy to use and they’re perfectly safe as long as you use them responsibly. Always check your credit card and bank statement every month to stay on top of your spending and make sure that no fraudulent charges appear on your accounts.

Information provided by Brenda Reichert, branch manager, 1225 Copper Creek Drive, Suite M, Pleasant Hill, 515-278-5333.

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