Data Breach and Identity Theft Become Rampant: What are you doing to protect yourself? Don’t count on card companies or big retailers

Your credit card records, possibly even your identity, are under attack. And the number of attacks is rising.

“We’re now getting close to 1 billion records of identity theft – more than three times our entire population in the United States,” says security expert Gary Miliefsky, executive producer of Cyber Defense Magazine.

All of this can cause endless headaches for consumers says a security expert.

With each data breach a new set of hassles arose, Philippe Benitez, Gemalto executive president of business development, recently wrote.

“Long wait times, calls with customer service and switching automatic payments are a major inconvenience for cardholders. But they aren’t the only ones feeling the pain. Banks face the challenge of trying to re-issue a large number of cards very quickly,” Benitez says.

What makes the data breach worse, some card experts warn, is sometimes there is a second nightmare: After notifying the card company, some new cards are lost on the way to the customer or never activated.

How to avoid this? Here are some tips from experts.

*Check online records frequently. “Once every two days is a good rule,” says Bill Hardekopf, founder of LowCards.com

*Change your passwords—all of them. “Do it now and do it frequently,” Miliefsky says.

*Shop online only from websites you trust. If you don’t know where the merchant is located, don’t shop online there.

*Don’t use public WiFi without using SSL encryption. Public WiFi can be a hacker’s dream.

And the danger isn’t just from what you do or don’t do to protect yourself. Many times the problem of data breach isn’t your fault. It is the result of where you shop; the result of companies that aren’t staying ahead of the crooks.

Indeed, millions of Americans have to clean up after their card security information was stolen owing to the failures of big retailers. And for retailers there is a threat worse than the thieves: Many of the consumers scammed are fed up.

And many will never have anything to do with retailers who weren’t able to protect them against electronic thieves. That’s the warning from a digital security firm.

“Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers surveyed worldwide say they are unlikely to shop or do business again with a company that had experienced a breach where financial information was stolen, and almost half (49%) had the same opinion when it came to data breaches where personal information was stolen,” according to a recent global survey by Gemalto. The survey polled to consumers in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.

How bad is it here?

Almost half of the American population received notification that their credit card was compromised last year, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll.

“I do think that people are getting freaked out by all the data breaches,” said Hardekopf of LowCards.com. He said some people are reluctant to go to Target, which had a massive data breach in 2013.

However, he said retailers that had breaches are probably more secure today because of bad publicity.

“I do believe they are working much harder on this today,” Hardekopf added.

Indeed, Target, which had a massive data breach in 2013, says it has spent a billion dollars updating security systems.

“We are committed to ongoing and substantial investments in people, processes and technology and that we would learn from the experience,” said Target spokeswoman Molloy Snyder. Changes include a new chief information, security, compliance and risk officials.

She added that Target also “opened a state of the art cyber fusion center where Target’s key information security teams work together around the clock.”

Still, many consumers are still wary. That’s because, despite increased efforts, many crooks are still succeeding.

Indeed, recently it was a record year for data breaches, according to Gemalto’s Benitez. He says some 63,000 retailed-related incidents occurred across 95 countries in 2014. Problems persist this year.

Protect yourself because often it is up to you. That’s because some credit card companies and retailers aren’t doing a good job of saving you from the disasters of card breach.

About The Author

Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent business journalist from Queens, New York. His Personal Finance articles have appeared in publications such as The New York Post & Financial Advisor Magazine. He is the author of the eBooks “Personal Finance For People Who Hate Personal Finance” and “MoneySense”.