U.S. Indicts 11 in Largest U.S. Identity Theft Case

I am a news junkie.  I always have to watch the news daily on my television.  It’s been a habit of mine for as long as I can remember.  I remember months back when I heard about The T.J. Maxx hacking scandal.  Basically, a hacker would sit in the parking lot of the business and wirelessly hack into the store’s network and download all the credit card information.  How it was done was unknown.  It could be that they might have had an IT security employee on the inside.  We will have to wait until the story unravels.

The defendants tapped the computer networks of TJ Maxx, Marshalls, BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc. bookstores, Sports Authority, Boston Market Corp., OfficeMax Inc., Dave & Buster’s restaurants, DSW Inc. shoe stores and Forever 21, the government said today.  The cost of the identity-theft scheme to citizens may total billions of dollars, Mukasey said. Some people may not learn they’ve been victims “for months or years,” he added.

Indictments by federal grand juries in Boston and San Diego charged three U.S. residents and defendants from other countries including Estonia, Ukraine and China with identity theft, fraud and conspiracy, the Justice Department said in a statement.

They allegedly hacked into retailers’ data systems by driving around the stores with a laptop, kept the information in personal computers in the U.S. and eastern Europe and converted some of it into ready-to-use bank cards, according to federal prosecutors.

TJ Maxx had to pay approximately $65 million to Visa and Mastercard to help cover the expenses because they “lacked the proper security”.  This incident, of course, is a huge blow because not only were the retailers scratching their heads on how it was done, but it could have been prevented if they put more “locks” on the already chained virtual door.

The best way to solve this problem is to be a VERY AWARE consumer.  We can’t tell you enough to check your credit card statements online — perhaps daily and call your credit card company when you see something suspicious and then close your account if more than 1 transactions have looked a tad bit scandalous.  Once they have your credit card number. they can easily get more money out of it bit-by-bit.  Also, try not to use your debit cards in retail stores.  They also keep those #s too and make faux credit cards out of them.  When that $10,000 is gone from your checking account and you don’t have any money to pay your mortgage, you could be in some serious trouble until all the paperwork is resolved with the banks and having them issue your money back (and that’s the question of WHEN!).

So be cautious – don’t use debit for retailers shops, check your credit cards online (try not to wait for the monthly paper statements that come through the mail) and call your banker as soon as you see some strange activity.

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