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Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 02:37 pm

Target-ing customers

Writing two days before Christmas about the theft from Target’s data system of as many as 40 million customer names, card numbers, expiration dates and card security codes, the Chicago Tribune editors wrote, “Companies and government prosecutors will do what they can, but consumers will have to become more vigilant about watching for the handiwork of tech-savvy crooks. . . . Target and its corporate peers have plenty of motivation to continually upgrade their security safeguards — the retailer is feeling the heat from understandably anxious customers. Fraud-resistant cards equipped with smart chips instead of magnetic strips are starting to appear in the U.S.”

What balderdash. Those fraud-resistant cards are in general use in Europe and have been for years, and cyber-thefts of this kind are almost unheard of because of it. Such cards are starting to appear in the U.S. mainly because European banks and ATMs won’t accept America’s primitive cards. U.S. regulators could insist, as the Europeans have long done, that banks and retailers move to more secure technology. They don’t, because the banks own the regulators.

Kevin Drum says it all. “Oh, these breaches are a pain in the ass for card-issuing banks and for Target itself, and it will end up costing them some money. But mainly it’s a pain in the ass for consumers. And if this breach causes you to be a victim of identity theft, you can be sure that neither Target nor your bank nor your credit rating agency will give you so much as the time of day. It’ll be up to you to reclaim your life even though it wasn’t your fault in any way. It’s a disgrace.”

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