Why the Target Data Breach Was a Good Thing

Why the Target Data Breach Was a Good ThingUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple months you’ve probably heard about the massive Target data breach.  It was kind of amusing how it all started off so innocuously and now it’s grown into such a massive story.

At first, Target told us that data for ‘only 40 million users’ had been compromised.  Hackers stole things like names, card numbers, expiration dates and CVV codes, no big deal.  But now we’re hearing that there’s an additional 70 million people who may have been affected and the information stolen from them included names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mails.

When I first heard about this story I didn’t think much of it because a) I don’t ever shop at Target and b) I don’t care if someone steals my credit card.  The nice thing about using credit is that if someone does steal your card or get your information you can just call up your credit card company and cancel your card.  By law you won’t be responsible for more than $50 worth of charges but most companies waive this charge anyways(which is probably why you have never even heard of someone getting charged $50 when their credit card is compromised).  It wasn’t until I heard about the additional 70 million people and what they lost that I thought this story was actually going somewhere.

Who Should Be Worried?

Now that you know it’s not a big deal at all if your credit card gets compromised, should you be worried?  Well unfortunately the answer is yes because if you fall in that second group of 70 million that information can be very valuable to hackers/scammers.  It’s easy to know if someone is using your card since most people review their statement once a month or even once a day like me using a service like Mint.  But how often do you check your credit report?  If someone can pair your address with your social security number they can open cards in your name, apply for loans and do a lot of damage.

You might be thinking how on earth would these hackers get your social security number if all they have is your address and e-mail address?  But right now there are tons of e-mails filtering in to my inbox from Target and all of my credit card companies talking about the data breach and what I should do.  I’ve been ignoring them for the most part but hackers could easily send a phishing e-mail to you that asks you to verify your information and you might never even know it.  Going forward, you should be more careful than ever on where and who you give your personal information to.  If these guys are smart, they might hold onto this data for years to come before they ever try to make a move.

Why It’s a Good Thing

The reason why this breach was actually a good thing though is because people are now more aware than ever of their credit.  Target is offering free credit monitoring(a service everyone should have!) to pretty much anyone that goes to their website and signs up.  I’ve also heard lots of mentions of annualcreditreport.com where you can get your absolutely free credit report 3 times a year.

For whatever reason, a lot of people think of credit as this crazy mythical thing.  But it’s actually pretty easy to understand and stay on top of your credit.  I use a combination of Credit Sesame, Mint and annualcreditreport.com in order to stay on top of everything.  Since I have all my financial accounts linked to Mint, it takes me about 2 minutes every morning to review the past day’s transactions and then I’m done.  I use Credit Sesame’s free credit monitoring service that instantly alerts me to any changes on my credit report.  Barclaycard is also now offering a completely free FICO score to its cardholders(another great reason to sign up for the Arrival Card).  And just to top it all off, I stagger my three free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com throughout the year as a fail-safe.

I’m not trying to scare you because I do think this breach will eventually end up doing more good than bad.  I’m sure a lot of people will go sign up for paid credit monitoring services but if you’re a smart reader of this blog you already know that you can get that exact same information for free.

Readers, are you worried by the potential data breach at Target?  Or are you like me and do you stay on top of all your financial accounts?  It’s not too late to protect yourself so go and sign up for Credit Sesame or Credit Karma and get your totally free credit report from annualcreditreport.com today!

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-Harry @ PF Pro

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Hi, I'm Harry, the owner and head writer for Your PF Pro. I started this site back in 2011 in order to create a place where young professionals could come and get all of their financial questions answered. On the site, you'll find articles on everything from asset allocation for retirement to saving money at Chipotle! So enjoy..

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