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Debit vs. credit: How to protect yourself from hackers

Debit vs. credit: How to protect yourself from hackers

The country's largest crafts chain may be the latest retailer hit by a security breach.

Michaels said Saturday that it learned recently of "possible fraudulent activity" on some of its customers' payment cards.

In recent weeks Target and Neiman Marcus have each acknowledged breaches.

The attack on Target affected as many as 110 million customers, including 40 million credit and debit card shoppers at the height of the holiday shopping season.

Neiman Marcus said a three-month breach in the summer and fall affected 1.1 million customers.

It's a trend that seems to be spreading.

Though the security breaches affect both credit and debit cards, debit hacks may cause you more problems. According to Matt Barrett, CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, credit cards are generally safer than debit cards.

"We always suggest consumers use credit cards when they purchase anything," Barrett said.  "If you use a debit card, the money is drafted out of your account and it's gone.  If it's fraudulent, the bank will work with you to return that money to your account, but in the meantime, you're out that cash and you may need that cash to pay rent or utilities or whatever else you need."

On the other hand, credit offers a bit more protection.

"A credit card you can challenge and during that time the credit card company won't make you pay until it's resolved," Barrett said.  "Debit cards are a bit of a throwback in the way that we're processing payments now."

Barrett said to be especially careful when making purchases online.  Always look for 'https' in the URL of the website you are using.  The "s" stands for secure and, while it's not foolproof, it means the site you are using operates under a secure connection.

If you have a high level of concern for credit or debit fraud, check your bank statements often.  Criminals will typically test the waters with small charges then go for a larger amount, Barrett said.  Report any suspicious activity, no matter how small, to your bank.

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