Tag Archives: Shopping

Personal Data: Who Has Your Back?

By: byron alcantara

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published its fourth annual “Who Has Your Back?” report. You might be surprised about which companies have your back and which companies don’t. The report looks at the policies and practices of various technology companies and gives companies stars for certain items that address security concerns of consumers.  Stars are given out if companies “require a warrant for content,” “tell users about government data requests,” “fight for users’ privacy rights in courts,” etc. A maximum of six stars can be obtained by each company.

Some of the top technology companies received gold stars across the board for protecting your data. Google, Apple, and Twitter all have your back and will fight for your privacy rights both in the courts and in Congress.  EFF was pleased to find out that many companies, rocked by high-profile disclosures of the National Surveillance Agency (NSA) spying on online accounts, responded by increasing their commitment to transparency and pushed back against mass surveillance.

The companies with the lowest amount of stars included Snapchat, Amazon, and AT&T. Snapchat was ranked least likely to have your back protecting your personal data. It does not require a warrant for content, does not promise to tell users if their data is sought by the government, and does not publicly oppose mass surveillance.

Amazon.com received credit for requiring a warrant for content. According to the EFF report, Amazon receives credit because of testimony from its Vice President for Global Public Policy, Paul Misener, before the House Judiciary Committee in 2010: “With respect to the content of electronic communications, we believe that ECPA requires law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant to compel disclosure. We do not release information without valid process and have not disclosed content without a search warrant.”

Although, Amazon.com’s stance is to obtain a warrant it does not promise users that it will tell them if the government demands data. The company has also never published a transparency report showing government requests for data, does not publish its guidelines for law enforcement seeking access to data, and it has not publicly opposed mass surveillance through a written statement.

Some companies have shown improvement over the past four years including Verizon (earned 4 stars), Microsoft (earned 6 stars), and Tumblr (earned 5 stars). Protecting personal data is extremely important to consumers and it is apparent that it is increasingly important to companies.

U.S. Secret Service Investigating Possible Data Breach at Sears?

Sears Holdings Corp. is launching an investigation in the wake of cyber attacks on other retail stores.  Sears, the retailer run by Edward Lampert, has not revealed any details of an actual attack or security breach.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said in a press statement, “There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach.”

Riefs added that there has been no information to indicate a breach so far which completely contradicts a report made by Bloomberg News.  Bloomberg News, using an un-indentified source, reported that the U.S. Secret Service was involved in investigating a secret breach at Sears.  The U.S. Secret Service is remaining quiet on whether or not it is actually investigating a breach at the retailer.

What is known is that the U.S. Secret Service is leading the investigation into last year’s cyber attack on Target and last year’s attack on Neiman Marcus.  The Target breach lead to the theft of approximately 40 million credit/debit card numbers and over 70 million pieces of personal data.  Neiman Marcus has also faced the harm of a data breach.  The luxury retailer had 1.1 million credit and debit cards hacked by malware that infiltrated terminals point of sale systems.

Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers who have experienced data breaches are attempting to gain back customer support by doing a lot of damage control. Target has offered free credit monitoring  and identity theft protection to customers for free for one year as part of its damage control efforts.

The rumor that Sears is investigating a possible security breach may still harm the retailer.  Lampert has struggled to make Sears profitable after 28 straight quarters of declining sales. A tarnished image from a potential data breach isn’t going to make shoppers rush out to buy anything from the retailer.

Original reports of the Target and Neiman Marcus breaches made clear that it could take months to confirm that breaches were made, how many victims were affected, and account for what data was stolen.

Tips for Safer Shopping on Your Mobile Device

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and more people are turning to shopping online than ever before. With great deals and often inexpensive or free shipping, it’s cost effective and saves you the headache of facing the holiday shopping crowds in stores. But shopping online from your smart phone or other device with mobile apps can put your credit card information at risk unless you take precautions to protect yourself.

Use password protection on the device

You can set your devices to require a password every time they’re used, preventing anyone from getting into your information. Sure, it’s an annoying extra step you have to take every time you use your phone, but it’s a lot easier than canceling all of your credit cards and repairing damage to your credit report!

Don’t store credit card info on your device

Using your smart phone to shop might be convenient, but it would be safer to just save items you want to your cart and then log in from your home computer to finish checking out. This way, none of your important account numbers are stored on your mobile device where thieves can find it.

Download apps to protect your device

Did you know Continue reading Tips for Safer Shopping on Your Mobile Device

Could your savings be from stalking?

Just the other day I received a number of coupons in the mail from Kroger’s.  This isn’t an unusual circumstance as several of the stores I frequent usually send me some coupons in the mail, email or even a text message.   It never fails to surprise me how well the coupons are targeted towards my purchasing habits.  Some of them are right on target, while others are just tempting enough to make me want to add them to the cart, after all I have a coupon.  But have you ever wondered at what cost you are paying for your savings?

I know that my coupons are geared towards my buying habits. After all, why else would their be a Kroger card, CVS or any of the other so called savings cards available at many grocery and department stores.   I’m not naive, I know that those cards are used to track my habits and yes, it bothers me some but a recent report from CreditCardAssist.com makes me wonder even more; “Can my savings come from stalking?”

Here are some ways that retailers are “stalking”  (data mining) information about you:

Wal-Mart began placing RFID chips on all of its clothes.  You have probably heard about RFID chips used on your credit card.  It’s the same thing.

“There are two things you really don’t want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that’s where we are seeing adoption,” said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering. “The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors.”

One very frightening story comes from a father who thanks to Target, found out his teenage daughter was pregnant.

“A Target store in Minnesota was called out by a father who demanded to know why the retailer was sending his teenage daughter coupons for maternity clothing and furniture. He was convinced the store was encouraging high school girls to get pregnant in order to raise profits. As it turned out, Target knew something that the girl’s father didn’t. Thanks to advanced data mining techniques, the store’s marketing computer was able to study the girl’s purchases and determine that there was an 87% percent chance that she was in her second trimester of pregnancy.” Continue reading Could your savings be from stalking?

Unsolicited credit cards: What to do with them and who is “offering” them

Do you always open all your mail?   Or do you get busy and assume that it’s junk mail or just another credit card offer?  Today I saw a news cast on one very good reason why you should always open your mail and read the fine print.

10TV.com reported on a Columbus, Ohio man who recently opened his mail to find, not just a credit card offer, but a credit card.  A credit card that he never asked for or completed an application for.   But here it is.

Reading through the letter that accompanied his brand new Discover Card he finds out that his particular membership at Sam’s Club includes a Discover Card, unless you “opt -out” either when registering your Sam’s Club membership or when sent a letter which let’s you know you were approved and your credit card is on its way.

Sam’s Club is not the only store that offers this type of “service.”  Macy’s customers found that they had become the not so proud owners of Citibank MasterCards.   Apparently, 3.5 million Macy’s customers were issued the Citibank MasterCard that they could use anywhere, since they were already users (in same cases even inactive users0 of the Macy’s store credit card.  JC Penny, Sears, and Target have also performed a similar service.

Isn’t receiving an unsolicited credit card against the many credit card laws that are meant to protect consumers?   Continue reading Unsolicited credit cards: What to do with them and who is “offering” them

Avoid these 5 Holiday Scams for 2010

The holidays are a time for family, friends and good cheer.  Unfortunately, the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas holidays are also the biggest time for thefts, scams and deals.  Almost as soon as the Black Friday shopping deals are announced, the hackers, scam artists and identity thieves start launching their deals too.

Giving to the needy?

During the holidays the number of fake charities soliciting “donations” skyrockets. Continue reading Avoid these 5 Holiday Scams for 2010

The 411 on the J.C. Penny Credit Card: A Store Credit Card Worth Checking Out

The J.C. Penney credit card is a store-specific card created for use at J.C. Penney retail stores and at the online J.C. Penney store. Many consumers don’t realize that you can also use your J.C. Penny credit card at CVS Pharmacy and Eckerd Pharmacy. These options are fairly new. Find out what else you may not know about the J.C. Penny credit card.

Continue reading The 411 on the J.C. Penny Credit Card: A Store Credit Card Worth Checking Out

Miss Layaway? Consider Bill Me Later

The countdown clock of shopping days until Christmas is ticking away. For many, the option of shopping online helps keep the “merry” in Merry Christmas. What could be better than shopping at home, than being able to put off your payment until your Christmas bonus?

Continue reading Miss Layaway? Consider Bill Me Later

Did you get your “cash back” when you made your debit card purchase?

Email urban myth or truth in fiction? Cash back debit cards scams and stores. Is it possible to have cash back charged to your debit card, but the money goes into the cashiers pocket? Absolutely, find out how a Target cashier was caught scamming, how my friend found out about her cash back purchase and what you can do to protect yourself.

Continue reading Did you get your “cash back” when you made your debit card purchase?

Password Safety Hints: From Google and AARP

During this time of the year people are busy shopping and banking on line. How can you protect your passwords and user names effectively while making the most of online shopping, travel and even news services? Find out what tips AARP and Google Privacy have teamed up to offer.

Continue reading Password Safety Hints: From Google and AARP