Huge cyberheist puts millions at risk for identity theft

12:41 AM, Jan 14, 2014   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida -- The Target security breach impacting more than 110 million customers is just the tip of the iceberg now that Neiman Marcus and at least three other well known stores we're  learning have also been hacked. The names of the three stores isn't being released yet.

So, how did one of the largest thefts of private data in U.S. history happen?

Stu Sjouwerman, the founder and CEO of KnowB4 in Clearwater, says, "They were in there and they pulled everything out. These are eastern European cyber-mafia and they are truly very sophisticated in stealing credit cards."

He says something as simple as a Target employee in a front office or in a mail room opening an innocent looking email or clicking on a link could have started it. He says hackers broke into their system and likely waited for months before striking swiping names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses on top of credit and debit cards and the pin numbers for them.

SEE ALSO: U.S. data thefts turn spotlight on Romania 

Sjouwerman says there's been easy fix out there for retailers and for banks for some time and that is to make a different type of credit card available to consumers.

"It will look the same but instead of a magnetic stripe on the back of the card -- there is an actual chip embedded in the card and that chip is much harder to hack."

But he says there's one reason why banks haven't switched -- cost.

And Sjouwerman says if you think you're safe and that you've dodged a bullet because you haven't noticed charges on your bank or credit card statements, yet he says it could be on the way. Because with all the personal information swiped millions of people are open to identify theft.

He says there's one big thing we can all do immediately to reduce our risk and that's to ditch the debit card.

"When you start paying with a debit card -- that is a really bad idea because that goes straight out of your account. You are the one that runs the risk."

Instead, he says only use your debit card to withdraw money from the ATM and never to pay for anything online or in stores because your account can be drained. Credit card purchases are protected and most times you won't be on the hook if a thief makes charges to it.

The experts also say you shouldn't give away your personal information in the check out lane either. Say no when a store clerk asks for your phone, email, address because all of that information along with your credit card information is like a gold mine to a hacker when it comes to stealing your identity.

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