Identity Theft

Michaels Reports Possible Data Breach

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Another major retail chain is reporting a possible data breach. On Jan. 25, Michaels announced it may have experienced a data security attack, and while the company is investigating possible fraudulent activity on payment cards used at Michaels stores, no breach has been confirmed. The company, based in Irving, Texas, and the largest chain specializing in arts, hobbies and other do-it-yourself craft supplies, released a statement to notify customers of the ongoing investigation.

“While we have not confirmed a compromise to our systems, we believe it is in the best interest of our customers to alert them to this potential issue so they can take steps to protect themselves, for example, by reviewing their payment card account statements for unauthorized charges,” CEO Chuck Rubin said in the news release.

As far as the time frame of the breach, the type of information possibly compromised or the locations of stores that may have been affected, Michaels has not provided any details.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also issued an advisory today with information to help consumers protect themselves in the midst of the string of data breaches. This information highlights a crucial tip for consumers in this age of digital financial information and frequent attacks on payment systems: Check your online account statements.  However, you should keep an eye on your credit, as well. Once information has been compromised in a breach, there’s always a risk it will be fraudulently used in the future. To watch out for unauthorized use of your personal information, check your free annual credit reports. You may also find free tools like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card useful, because sudden drops in your credit scores could indicate identity theft.

These data breaches aren’t going away, so it’s up to you to protect your finances and credit from damage. The attack on Target’s payment systems served as a reality check for many consumers, since it was one of the largest breaches to be recorded in the U.S. — hackers acquired about 40 million customers’ credit and debit card information and the personal information of about 70 million customers, as well.

“You’re talking about the fabric of our lives when you’re talking about Target,” said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. “I think it shook people in the concept that ‘It would never happen to me.'”

The FBI warned U.S. retailers to prepare for more attacks like the ones experienced by Target and Neiman Marcus, according to a report from Reuters. The FBI discovered roughly 20 hacking cases in the last year similar to what Target experienced in November and December, which involved malware that infects point-of-sale (POS) systems, like the machines used to process card payments at checkout.

Michaels’ announcement may indicate a trend toward improving business-customer communication, considering nothing has been confirmed yet.

“Everybody is going to be breached — there’s just too much data out there that they wouldn’t be,” Levin said of retailers. “Your reputation will be judged, and your bottom line will be impacted by how open and transparent you are and how quickly you move to notify the public and how quickly you deal with the problem.”

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Image: Anthony92931 via Wikimedia Commons

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