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Oliver: Massive data breach brings reality check

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 12:27 a.m. CST

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Normally I’m not one to do much shopping in late November and early December.

I’m not a fan of crowds, and I rarely want anything badly enough to sit in a long line.

But a friend had just had a baby, so I took a deep breath and headed to Target on Dec. 5 for a gift.

Little did I know that I’d still be dealing with that visit.

By now, everyone has heard of the massive data breach that hit Target store shoppers throughout the United States between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, 2013.

When I first heard the news, I felt a little sick. Target sent an email within days of the disclosure to reassure me that my information wasn’t going to end up in Indonesia.

Except, of course, that the company couldn’t guarantee that. All it could guarantee was that I wasn’t going to be liable for charges on my card that weren’t my fault.

Not too long thereafter, I got a similar email from my credit card company.

As luck would have it, the compromised card isn’t one I use often.

And I’ve been through the “unauthorized charges” drill on this card before.

A few years back, when online shopping was just coming into its own, I noticed a charge or two that I didn’t recognize.

One charge came from a clearly questionable website – one that would never, ever get my business, if you know what I mean.

After reassuring the customer service representative from the credit card company that no one in my house was responsible for said charge, it was expunged with little fanfare.

Of course, this just made me hypervigilant.

So vigilant, it turns out, that I became a little overzealous in my calls to the credit card company.

I had to sheepishly admit that I probably was the one who had made a purchase at the Wisconsin State Fair from a vendor whose name I didn’t remember. (“Oh yeah, that. Sorry.”)

Since I diligently look at my credit card statements each month, I figured I had managed to ride out this Target breach.

That is, until my credit card company decided to issue me a new account number and card.

Not that I blame them. After all, they, not I, would be on the hook for the fraudulent charges.

Unfortunately, that does mean that I’m going to have to figure out which merchants will need the new digits. The credit card company even helpfully sent me a list for my convenience.

Swell. Then again, I guess this beats the alternative – having to work through a list of fraudulent charges months down the road.

In the end, it was just another reminder of how powerless we are when it comes to so much of our personal information that’s out there. Even relatively careful people like me aren’t immune.

So I suppose no one can blame me for being a little more hesitant about hauling out the plastic from here on out. It might not help the economy, but it probably will be beneficial to the Oliver household’s bottom line. For a little while at least.

• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at jolivercolumn@gmail.com.

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