Tag Archives: crime news

The New Perils of Today

Photo:MALIZ ONG (publicdomainpictures.net)
Photo:MALIZ ONG (publicdomainpictures.net)

In the good old days when things were done mostly by hand and phone, crooks and con artists came up with clever ways to steal from stores. Shoplifting–the five finger discount–was popular but risky if you got caught. Stores that offered up charge cards or took credit cards offered ways for the crook to make a living. Often cards were put on a device which impressed the card on a charge slip. And it meant you got a copy of the charge and they did too for processing. Carbon paper used to be used and those crafty cons learned to sift through store garbage cans to retrieve them. Then of course the customer would get his bill and see a lot more had been charged. Today thanks to credit and debit cards, we swipe them on a terminal to pay for our purchases. And the crooks got smart too.

They learned that you can skim the important data by using devices that capture as you swipe. Gas stations have become a real target since a lot of people swipe their debit cards. Grocery stores have been caught too when someone shows up claiming to be from the company that works on those terminals adds a little something to them. Target, a large name in the retail business, got hit hard according to news reports. Just about everyone who used the store between 27 Nov and 15 Dec potentially gave their important credit card and debit card data to these sophisticated thieves. All Target credit and debit cards are effected as are any other credit cards swiped during that time.

Now Target has had to make official statements and apologies. Too bad their customer service is virtually unreachable right now (busy signals and the recorded voice coming on saying all circuits are busy). Go online to check your RedCard perhaps to change your pin on the debit card? Nope, cannot do that either. The website is not working there but you can apply for one! I went down to my local Target in San Bruno, California and spoke to a young man at the Guest Services counter. Sadly I learned that you cannot change your pin there. You have to go to the website or call up to have it done. So I politely asked for some scissors and cut my RedCard debit card in half. He looked unconcerned though the Target checker standing behind him gawked at what I did. I handed him back the scissors and the now decapitated card. And I walked away. I had thought about shopping there that day. I brought my checks with me.

I decided otherwise. They were either cleverly hacked from the outside or someone from the inside did the job. No word yet on how many people have unauthorized charges. So far I have had none but then again debit charges made through Target’s card take a few days to show up (it is processed like a check rather than a straight debit). Already I see people quite rightly mad and complaining how they cannot get through to Target either at the website or by the phone. And how they were exposed to crooks when they swiped their cards. It may, at least for some, warrant some rethinking of using debit cards to pay for things. I loathe to use credit cards for grocery shopping and usually use a debit card (but using the charge function rather than debit). Still it makes one think using checks is not such a bad thing after all. Perhaps the check printers are about to get a bump in orders.

As for Target, since I cannot either contact them by phone or through the website, I will send an old fashioned postal letter directing them to cancel the debit card. If I shop at Target in the future, I will use cash or pay by check. No more debit or credit cards (except when ordering online) for use there. I may never go back since I can get most of what I need elsewhere (they do have some good prices on groceries compared to the other stores in the area). But I likely will not go back. They way they handled this was to say oops, sorry, and good luck to you! The fact their customer service and certain areas of their website was unreachable is the clincher. So in this age of tech savvy crooks and con artists, places like Target ought to have been more on the ball. This is not inconsequential as it involves peoples credit card and debit card information that thieves will be sure to use. No doubt lawsuits are pending. In the end the consumer must watch over their information because places like Target are sometimes unable to do so when clever crooks break the system and win the jackpot.