Identity Theft

The Data Breaches Continue: Neiman Marcus

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Upscale department store Neiman Marcus has confirmed a data breach that struck its stores mid-December. The size and nature of the data compromised remain unclear, but the news delivers another blow to consumers already shaken by the massive breach under investigation at Target stores across the country.

Neiman Marcus, based in Dallas, has stores in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and a company spokeswoman said the retailer has no evidence the store’s online shoppers were affected, according to a comment received by security blogger Brian Krebs, who confirmed the story. The statement says the investigation is ongoing, after a forensics firm discovered consumer information may have been compromised in the attack.

“This is an epidemic,” said Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of Credit.com and IdentityTheft 911. “We’re now in the post-privacy period, and this is going to be more the norm.”

The same day Krebs wrote about the Neiman Marcus discovery, Target upped its estimate of how many consumers were impacted by the attack its payment systems suffered between Thanksgiving and Dec. 15, saying more than 70 million customers may have had credit card numbers, debit card numbers, email addresses, PINs, phone numbers and home addresses compromised. Other reports have put that number at more than 100 million, and as of Jan. 13, Target customers can request a year of free credit monitoring through Experian ProtectMyID.

Stolen email addresses open up greater risks to consumers, as they could become targets for fake ads aimed at installing malware on their computers and stealing their personal information. It’s up to consumers to protect themselves.

“People have to focus more on monitoring and damage control rather than limiting exposure,” Levin said. While taking measures to fend off intruders helps, like using complex passwords and secure Internet connections, Levin said it’s clear that thieves are going after big operations to score information. “Hack is the new black.”

Credit monitoring, like that offered to Target customers and the victims of the Adobe data breach last year, will alert you when someone tries to use your personal information to open new accounts. These complimentary services last a year, but the risk doesn’t expire. You can continue the service by paying for it when your free membership ends.

Whether or not you’ve been a victim in these attacks, you need to regularly check your online bank statements and watch your credit for errors or sudden changes. Comparing your credit scores periodically can help, because a huge shift in score may indicate unauthorized use of your credit. You can get your free credit scores for monthly comparison through Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card, and all consumers are entitled to free copies of their annual credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus.

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