(CBS) -- Target's massive security breach seems to grow bigger by the day. First, it was credit cards. Then, PIN numbers. Next, it became clear data theft was involved. Now, it’s emerging that more retailers were also affected.
While the may make some shoppers feel helpless against faceless thieves, there are steps you should take to protect yourself against fraudulent charges and identity theft.
The bad news for consumers? The expanding scope of the theft raises the danger that someone could be victimized. As a result, consumers must continue to be vigilant in monitoring their credit-card and bank accounts, as well as to be suspicious of any emails or calls from people claiming to represent retailers or banks.
It’s also important to remember that a retailer’s legal responsibility is only to report the data loss to consumers, credit bureaus and state regulators. Retailers aren’t legally required to offer credit-protection services to consumers, Brian Lapidus, managing director and information security practice leader at Kroll, told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.
As the story of how hackers stole confidential data from Target continues to escalate, some people are vowing to only use cash for purchases, given the risk of credit-card fraud. But Lapidus notes that consumers shouldn’t give up on plastic. “Cash can be lost or stolen with little or no recourse,” he wrote. “I’d rather use a credit card which has protections afforded to the cardholder if the card number is used without his/her authority.”
But consumers do need to be prepared for the worst, said Yaron Samid, CEO of financial planning software maker BillGuard. “It seems like right now there’s almost an epidemic of malware at point-of -sale terminals,” he said.
In today’s environment, “It’s just a matter of time before your information is compromised.”
Below are nine tips gleaned from three security experts interviewed by CBS MoneyWatch on how to protect yourself amid the growing security threat.
The bottom line is that credit-monitoring is only part of the solution, noted Kroll’s Lapidus. “Passwords, PINs, etc., have nothing to do with credit monitoring. Consumers need other tools outside of monitoring,” he wrote. “Commerce is safe, but vigilance is paramount.”
Some may believe that living off the grid may be the only solution, but that's not so easily done these days. As such, consumers need to realize that data security requires them to be prepared and not to rely only on banks and financial institutions to protect them.
“Realistically, we want to live more freely, do our banking from the coffee shop via Wifi," Chase said. “We want to put our birthdays on Facebook even though” that can help thieves sniff out your complete birthdate. He added, “It’s a balancing act to be as safe as you can be.”