Avoid Holiday Hackers: How to Keep Your Money Safe and Enjoy the Season

Patty Chang, VP of E-Commerce
Greater Nevada Credit Union
We all remember last holiday season when Target’s systems were breached, exposing millions of customers’ credit card data. Since then Home Depot, Kmart, and Neiman Marcus have all been added to the list of retailers who have been compromised. Over the past year, the world has become a lot scarier for shopping. Luckily, even though hackers have become a lot smarter so have retailers and financial institutions, so that shoppers can have a safer and more merry holiday. As the VP of E-Commerce and former Manager over the Risk Management Department, it is my job to keep our GNCU members and their information as safe as possible, whether it be online or in stores.
 ‘Tis the season to be jolly so in order to help keep the holidays bright, I’ve decided to answer questions that our members have been asking on how to best keep your money and information safe this shopping season and security improvements slated for 2015.

Are the retail stores that got hacked safe to shop at anymore?

Once a retail store has been impacted by a data breach, it is highly likely they have taken measures to prevent it from happening again.  This means that they are sometimes safer than those who haven’t experienced a breach.   For example, after losing $148 million, Target was alleged to have committed to over $100 million in security and system upgrades as a result of their incident in late 2013. 
This doesn’t mean they are invincible – no matter where you shop, keep track of your purchases and check your statements frequently.

How can I protect myself when online shopping?

Before you go putting your card information into buysocksfromJoe.com, exercise the same caution you would if you were going to the brick and mortar store.  Make sure you are familiar with the online store or vendor, know what type of security they have for transactions, read the reviews and track your purchases.  
For smart phone and tablet shopping, use an App that is available in the Google or Apple App Store.  These apps typically have customer reviews and also have had to go through an approval process in order to be offered in the store.  Online shoppers are not shy about writing reviews when they have had a bad (or good) experience with a retailer.
Also, consider using familiar online stores that offer to ship from other stores.  This provides the security of shopping from Amazon, for example, with the wide range of goods you can get from just about anywhere else. 
Some other tips for safe online shopping:
  • Make sure your phone is password protected.  Once you have chosen to do “One-Click Shopping” with Amazon, that information is likely still available in your phone when you log into the Amazon App.
  • Make sure you only use secured connections to send banking information.  This means no shopping while sipping coffee at your local Java Hut.  The Wi-Fi connection is open to anyone including those who know how to grab your personal information.
  • Choose to do business with only websites that offer an “HTTPS” connection.  The “S” stands for secure and is an indication that any data passed between your machine and the receiving machine is not shared any further.

What is safer to use:  a credit card or debit card?

Both cards work the same way for transactions – the primary difference between the two is the liability in the case of fraud.  When your debit card has been impacted by fraud, it affects funds in your deposit account.  For a credit card, it impacts a line of credit. 
Regulations for consumer liability vary depending on the type of card used and how quickly you report the incident, but typically, you are less likely to have to pay for fraud that has occurred on a stolen credit card.  For full guidelines, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Privacy and Identity page.

Is Apple Pay a better option?

Apple Pay is a great new option in that it utilizes “tokenization” to protect your card information.  This means that when you present your card (from your phone in the case of Apple Pay) a “token” is created for that card information and is passed to the point of sale system of the merchant to pay for your purchases.  Simply put - your card number never leaves your phone.  Apple Pay will definitely make it much more difficult for fraud perpetrators to grab card data in the future.
For those members who have an Apple iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the process for using Apple Pay is simple.  Download the app in the App store, load eligible cards in Passbook and begin shopping! For more information follow these steps to set up Apple Pay on your iPhone or iPad.

What is EMV technology? Do I have it on my card?

EMV technology refers to “chip” cards that are used all over the world and will soon be available in wide release in the U.S.  EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa – the three largest card issuers in the world.  EMV cards include a chip that stores encrypted card data instead of the typical magnetic stripe cards you see today.  The chips are not able to be counterfeited, thus offering more protection to users in a “card present” type of transaction. 
GNCU is working to implement EMV technology and will issue cards with the EMV chip in 2015.  Look for more details on our website at www.gncu.org.