So, about this California DMV credit card data breach, huh? (That link goes to the Krebs on Security blog, which is now my favorite blog on earth because SECURITY.) There was, apparently, a private note sent from Mastercard to some unnamed people talking about some unnamed place but Krebs (who is Sherlock, natch) solved it. Brian Krebs is awesome and I don’t know how I didn’t know about him before. Read the first paragraph of this story about him and you will be just as sucked in. I promise. If you’re as into heroin and poop-on-porches as I am, you’ll love this guy!
What I really mean, of course, is that if you are as fascinated by the gross and dirty underbelly of the Internet as I am you will love this guy. I think you do. I know I do. We can learn how not to get scammed by learning how others do it. I mean, of course we’ll use our powers for good. Of course!
I guess no one really thought of the DMV as being “safe” in terms of credit card security. I think it just seems like a place where there are so many people and things are moving fast enough and the people are sitting right there at the counter that it would be difficult to get that information.
This Reminds Me of When Our Information Got Stolen
When Mr. Brickie’s card got fake-swiped at the gas pump (I totally tried to find the post to link it here because I’m a professional blogger but I couldn’t find it even using Google and the search box and so I guess by professional I mean “professional amateur”) we got a call from the company so we could let them know we weren’t popping out to buy groceries in Ireland even if the card thought we were.
You can tell if someone has had their information stolen at a gas pump. They’re hitting, bumping, or trying to pull off the swiper before they put their card into it. Velcro-attachments mean they’re sturdy, but not sturdy enough because they need to be pulled off at the end of the day so the thieves can drive off with their precious information.
After that, I actually felt more secure about using the card because the bank had our back. They were watching out for us. We got a call once because we swiped our card in three states in one day. We live in Illinois and drive through Indiana when we go to Michigan. I was mildly annoyed because I felt like they should have known based on our history where we spent our time and that it was well within the time period of us being out for the day.
That was my a-ha moment. When I felt annoyed that a computer somewhere didn’t know my habits well enough. If you asked me, “Hey, do you want all the information about you in a computer somewhere?” I’d be like, “No, thank you.” unless it was medical, of course, because then it’s all kinds of Let’s Make a Deal.
The alarm in my brain that was telling me to run because a computer knew just enough but not too much? It’s a thing in my head that happens when I start to feel too comfortable. My brain assesses the situation and decides if it needs to throw off an alarm bell in my brain. This time it did and the thought followed, “I have to get off of this hamster wheel. Something bad is going to happen.”
My family – because they are kind – call it intuition.
As for the credit cards, I can’t bring myself to actually get rid of the little plastic beasts, but at the same time the 5% off just for using the Target card, well, I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore. Yes there will be a little extra hassle of having to keep my receipt on me to return something, but okay. (Let’s be honest, I’m not shopping much at Target in the first place. I’m at Aldi for my food and if I’m getting kitchen stuff or little things for my home? Goodwill, Value Village, or one of the four dollar stores in my immediate area is where I’m going. When I am in the position to buy things that are high quality I won’t be at Target anyway.)
The thing is, if we are already at t he point where we accept our credit card (or debit card) information has been stolen and used to buy groceries in Ireland (or whatever it might be in your case!) and that part isn’t a shock anymore…that’s when I truly believe it is time to get out.
Let’s Be Realistic About Credit Cards
I don’t advocate getting rid of all your credit cards. I keep mine in a little zipper pouch next to my “in cash” emergency fund in a hidey hole. I had no credit cards at one time and it felt no different than having credit cards I’m not using now. Well, except for the ease of renting a car or getting a hotel room. Getting those with a debit card is much more of a hassle because of the hundreds of dollars of holds that can be placed on a card.
Credit cards aren’t drugs, you don’t need to flush it all down the toilet to keep it out of your nose. I don’t keep them on me, however, because if my purse is stolen I want to have to deal with ONE card being stolen not all of them. (Quick sidenote: If credit cards ARE like drugs for you then YES you do need to flush them all by cutting them up and trashing them. Only you know your situation when it comes to the plastic stuff. I can’t make that decision for you. I think there can be a solid path to financial solace that does not have one-size-fits-all answers.)
People Who Use Their Credit Cards to Get Cool Free Stuff
Oh! The people who are all “I use my cards for awesome perks and game the system so it totally doesn’t game me” are getting blowback. It’s starting with an American Express policy that you can’t get the bonus points or whatever if you apply for the same card again ever. I totally assumed this was already a thing and even though my credit score is in the 600s and I would never have qualified for any of those fancy cards now I kind of feel like I was left out of something cool since when I do have good credit I’m not going to be messing around with stuff like this anyway.
It’s because I’m risk averse. I hate risk. Having a credit card is one level of risk, carrying it with you is another, having a balance is a third, and carrying a balance is a fourth. I feel them exponentially, but again, I’m not sure how you jam with your cards and your risk and whatnot. I just don’t like that much risk, because being careful is what’s kept rice in our bowls and chili in our crockpot.
I expect my credit score to bottom out completely if the house stuff goes bad. We never got notice of a new court date. I really expected it since the judge said we would have another court date in March, but everyone keeps telling me Chancery Court isn’t like the other branches and it just takes forever.
So we are still hovering here in between everything and nothing. We are grateful for every day we don’t have notice to go back to court. I look at the temperature and think, “This could be the week that foundation gets poured.” I try to be hopeful about Mr. Brickie getting back to work because this mantra that repeats over and over in our heads is, “Any day now….any day now….”
Some Resources and Reads About Credit Cards
Want to read up on credit cards? Here are some recent articles from Bloomberg that cover everything from data breaches to giving money to the homeless with a credit card. (The homeless dude in Sweden has, like, the NICEST winter coat, doesn’t he?) Fascinating stuff.
The Points Guy is a blog about maximizing credit card points.
The creditnet Credit Talk Forum is a great place to learn about repairing your credit report and improving your credit. They are also great at answering questions you might have about your situation, whatever it may be.
CreditBoards is the other forum for credit repair and credit improvement. I know there are a billion more, but this one and creditnet are ones I lurked on for months and learned from.
I’m not turning my back on the debt-free dream, far from it, it’s still where I want to be. In the meantime I’m using my credit card for “auto pay” bills like the cell phone bill and the garbage bill and the Internet bill. That way I don’t have to hunt down what is due where and I can just make one payment to one place. The credit limit isn’t high enough to put the car payment on with all the other bills, but I think that’s for the best, really. As much as I dream about only ever having to deal with just one bill, in reality that might not be the very best plan.
I’ll revisit the whole paying bills in one place auto-bill stuff later on when we are more financially stable. It’s nothing but a pipe dream right now.
Better Safe Than Sorry
The bottom line is be careful. There are places where it might be perfectly safe to use your credit/debit/whatever card as long as you may live. You may be a person who habitually loses cash and if that is you, well then, you shouldn’t carry cash as much as someone who doesn’t lose it all the time.
But even though there is no one-size-fits-all answer, do me a favor and try to use cash a little more than usual this week. Just give it a try and see if it works for you. If you’re super-used to using a credit card or debit card getting out cash can seem uncomfortable.
I went shopping with a friend of mine a couple weeks ago and she whipped out a checkbook at the supermarket. I almost DIED of embarrassment. I was 100% sure the cashier was going to laugh her out of the store. I mean, a checkbook? Why not just give the woman an IOU, am I right? (you’re probably yelling at your screen right now telling me what an idiot I am)
You’re right. I’m an idiot. Not a fuss was made, not an eye was blinked, and her check was taken with no problem.
I mean, it made sense when I looked back on it. They wouldn’t still be sending the handout thingys in the coupon envelopes to get Garfield checks if no one took them anymore. It’s just so rare that I use a check I kind of forget they are used to exchange money for goods and services anymore.
We started using cash more often a few weeks ago. Mr. Brickie admits it’s more of a hassle at the gas station for sure, because he’s too embarrassed to have to go back in for change so he never fills up the car with gas now. But he likes knowing his card can’t get swiped again if he’s paying with cash money.
We are trying to find the combination that works best for us.
As always, I’m super curious about what works best for you!