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How To Keep Your Credit Card Information Safe and Secure This Holiday Season

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If you shop at Home Depot or Target, chances are you’re aware of the hacking, and subsequent theft, of millions of shoppers’ credit and debit card information. Unfortunately, it’s going to be up to you to keep yourself safe from such debacles this holiday season, as retailers don’t appear to be interested in protecting you. Despite the fact that these are huge companies with the financial muscle to support a strong IT department, they either cut corners (as in the case of Home Depot) or completely ignored early alarms (as in the Target hack).

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, Home Depot represents only one of the 621 data breaches of 2014. There is no reason to believe that it won’t be Chevron or a national grocery retailer to next have their systems hacked and our personal information compromised.

In a survey of 865 Americans, 45% of respondents said they were less likely to shop at stores that have had data breaches. However, only 16% said they would definitely not shop at such stores, so it’s not clear how much of an impact these hacks will actually have on customer confidence by the time people are looking to buy presents for their families.

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Frankly, I have every intention to continue shopping at Target. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t be taking precautions. Here are a few things you can do to be proactive about protecting your financial data:

1. Pay in cash.
2. Write checks.
3. Use a prepaid reloadable card. If this is the option you choose to go with, please do your research to find the best deal for you. The highest rated prepaid reloadable card on the market according to Forbes is the American Express Bluebird with direct deposit.

It should be noted that avoiding stores that have been hacked before won’t necessarily help keep your information safe. In fact, Target may be one of the safest places to shop because they don’t want a repeat of what happened last year. To that end, they have taken several precautions to win your trust and make your shopping experience as safe as possible.

Data breaches have been on the rise over the past decade from 157 cases in 2005 to 621 today and in that time hacking has become the most common way of collecting that data. While safer technology may be on the way, I encourage you to take your financial safety into your own hands and simply pay in cash.

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