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Data Breach Barrage Chips Away Westchester Shoppers' Sense of Security

Norma Habraneck, who works at Mamaroneck High School, is using her credit cards sparingly this holiday season to avoid any potential data breaches. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Jo-Anne Vaccaro, left, says she is confident retailers and banks are doing what they can to prevent future data breaches. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Every time Norma Habraneck swipes her credit card she immediately checks her statement for any fraudulent activity, a habit the Mamaroneck High School employee started in response to the onslaught of data breaches at major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels.

The number of hacks has topped 600 in the last year alone , according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, and compromised the credit and debit card information for hundreds of millions of consumers. This includes former New Rochelle resident Jo-Anne Vaccaro, who bought some plants at Home Depot this past summer when a breach exposed 56 million shoppers to possible fraudulent activity.

“The bank called me and said the store you shopped in was compromised and we need to give you a new card,” she said while Christmas shopping at the Galleria Mall in White Plains.

Vaccaro avoided any fraudulent charges, and her new HSBC credit card came equipped with chip and pin technology, which offers greater protection against data breaches than the magnetic stripe cards. But, it's used by only 2 percent of Americans.

That number is expected to jump thanks to an Oct. 1, 2015 deadline for banks to upgrade to chip technology and retailers to install terminals that accommodate it. Those who don’t will be on the hook for any fraud.

JP Morgan Chase announced it will issue chip and pin cards this year. Target, Home Depot, Walgreens and Walmart have said they will be ready to accept chip and pin cards by the beginning of 2015.

Investigator Mark Donchek, of the New York State Police Cyber Analysis Unit, told Daily Voice this is a step in the right direction.

“Once the technology is fully implemented it's going to make it more difficult for people to utilize stolen credit card data in the United States,” he said.

Until then, shoppers have to decide whether paying with a card is worth the risk. If you do pay with plastic, Donchek advices that you use credit instead of ATM cards since the account holder is responsible for the loss until the investigation is complete.

Vaccaro is following that advice.

“In this day and age you have to be proactive,” she said.

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