Data Breaches: Will You Stop Using Plastic?

Data breaches have been big news recently.  However, even with some heightened concern about security, it doesn’t appear that many consumers are doing much to change their habits, and they are unlikely to stop using plastic.

According to a poll reported by Daily Finance, it appears that only 37 percent of consumers are increasing their use of cash to protect themselves from the identity theft that can come as the result of a data breach.

credit card information

More people seem to be worried about purchases made online, or made with a cell phone — in spite of the fact that, initially, the Target data breach was only supposed to have affected in-store shoppers.

Why Consumers Still Use Plastic

The only way to completely protect yourself from these types of data breaches is to stop using your credit cards and debit cards. Many consumers, though, don’t want to deal with the inconvenience that often accompanies using cash.

It’s much easier to just carry a thin piece of plastic, rather than a wad of cash. I know that I wouldn’t want to carry around a thick stack of cash. Swiping the plastic is so much more convenient. It’s faster, it’s easier, and you don’t often have to worry about getting caught without enough.

On top of that, even with the data security breaches, plastic is actually more secure than cash. Think about it: If someone steals your credit card or debit card, you can usually get the money back. Fraudulent transactions come with protection. Even though you might not get quite the same protection with debit cards as you would with a credit card, the reality is that you are still protected. As long as you can prove fraud, that money will be returned to you eventually.

With cash, the money is gone. There is no way to track that. If someone steals your wallet and takes the cash, you’re never getting that back. You’re better off having someone make a fraudulent purchase of $100 with a credit card than you are with someone taking $100 from your purse. When you consider this, it doesn’t make sense to stop using plastic.

Using a credit card instead of a debit card offers another layer of protection, since the money isn’t even taken out of your bank account. With a fraudulent debit transaction, you actually lose the money until the bank returns it. With a credit card, you don’t even have to risk your own money.

More Troubling: Few Consumers Checking Their Credit Reports

It’s not all that troubling (and not very surprising) that consumers aren’t making huge strides stop using plastic in the wake of these data security breaches.

What’s worse is the fact that many consumers aren’t taking any steps to protect themselves at all. Only 41 percent have checked their credit reports, according to the Daily Finance article. In spite of the fact that Target is offering credit monitoring services, and it’s fairly easy to use AnnualCreditReport.com and other credit monitoring tools to stay on top of the situation, most Americans are changing anything.

Also problematic is that Daily Finance reports even fewer consumers have changed their passwords at compromised retailer sites, and that they haven’t requested new debit or credit card numbers. Years ago, when the PlayStation Network data breach compromised my credit card information, I called my issuer and immediate got a new number and a new card. It took no more than 10 minutes and was free.

Change Your Behaviors

No, you don’t have to convert to cash in order to protect yourself from identity fraud. However, you do need to make some changes to your behaviors in light of the recent data breaches. For the most part, these changes amount to paying better attention. Here are some things to do:

  • Carefully review transactions on your statements, looking for fraudulent charges.
  • Check your credit report regularly.
  • Notify card issuers and credit bureaus immediately if your information is compromised.
  • Use different username/password combinations for different sites.
  • Change your passwords on occasion.

Just paying attention to what’s happening can help you combat identity theft. It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. If you are truly concerned about the time investment, you can consider signing up for credit monitoring so that you don’t always have to be on your toes.

Whatever you decide to do, though, it’s important to be aware, and to take steps to do what you can to protect yourself.

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