Protecting yourself from security breaches

File photo (WLUK)
File photo (WLUK)

GREEN BAY - First it was Target, now Michaels is confirming nearly three million credit and debit cards may have been affected by a security breach. It happened Between May 8, 2013 and Jan. 27.

"The hackers, the bad guys managed to get some software on the inside of the company, on the point of sale terminals, which are essentially just computers," said David Kieper, IT security officer for University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Michaels stores in Green Bay and Grand Chute are among the stores where credit and debit card information may be compromised.

Despite the breach, the company says the software used by hackers is no longer a threat to customers.

Michaels also says it found no evidence that other personal information like names, addresses or PINs were stolen.

Kieper says it's time for the U.S. to update its technology.

"The U.S. really needs to move to what we call pin and chip type cards. So what happens is that when that card is used, all the data's encrypted so it's never available for the criminals to intercept it."

But Kieper says it would come with a hefty price tag.

"A card like that is $5 to $10 to issue whereas a little plastic card like we use now is probably 25 cents."

It would cost millions of dollars to replace all of the terminals where you swipe your card.

So what can you do to keep your credit card information safe? Make sure you check your statements and pay attention to every transaction that's made. Even if it's a small amount you don't remember charging.

"If they do see those things, communication is essential as soon as possible with their credit card providers. Another thing I'm aware that some people do is put alerts on their computers or their cell phones," said Cliff Bowers, spokesperson for Associated Bank.

That's exactly what Patricia Theyerl does while shopping.

"I have just a couple of credit cards that I use quite a bit and I went and set it up so that I get an automatic email I use my credit card and that makes me feel a lot more comfortable."

Some say using their credit cards is a risk they're willing to take.

"I don't worry about it too much. I feel pretty safe about using it," said Ben Leoffelholz.

Michaels is offering free identity protection and fraud assistance services to any of its customers who were affected during the breach.