Target Practice


News of the security breach at Target made me cringe. I knew I’d shopped there before the holidays, but I couldn’t remember: did I use my Visa or my debit card?

I’d come to rely on my debit card and use it like cash. It was easy to stick to our budget if I could see the funds trickling from our checking account and avoid surprise end-of-the-month bills. I trusted retailers – from convenience and grocery stores to big-box stores and, yes, wine and spirits shops – to safeguard my information.

And, yet, here was Target, a major retailer with major problems.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been brushed by a security breach. As strange as it may seem, my personal email address was compromised by the knitting website, Ravelry, resulting in hundreds of spam email messages daily. An errant charge for a pornography website in London was immediately removed from our Verizon statement. And after my account may have been compromised, I automatically received a replacement Visa. Each time, no money was involved. Just aggravation.

This one felt different. I was one of 40 million shoppers whose information had been stolen. Forty million!

My story has a happy ending. I dug through a pile of old billing statements to discover I had, in fact, used my Visa that day to purchase Christmas gifts. No threat to our checking account. I set up online access to monitor activity on my credit card and contacted the company, whose representative assured me, unlike Target, they did not sustain a security breach. Several weeks later, I received a replacement Visa, along with a letter explaining the account may have been compromised. At Target? I’ll never know.

I’ve retired my debit card and become more vigilant about the charges on my credit card statement, but I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about protecting my identity. Fortunately, BU faculty, staff and alumni came to the rescue with tips we all can use, featured in the spring 2014 issue’s cover story, Phishing Season.

–Bonnie Martin, Editor

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