Target Breach Hits Home for Chicago Woman

When she first heard about the massive hacking mess at Target back in December, Monica Alvarado says she was immediately concerned.

"I thought, oh great, I went to Target on Black Friday. I used my debit card ... I use my debit card for everything," Alvarado told NBC5 Investigates.

But shortly thereafter, Alvarado says, Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest took the problem out of her hands and issued her a new debit account number and card.

"I was so grateful that they were proactive," she said.

About two months later, Alvarado got some news that made her even more grateful. New York City detectives called Community Bank after arresting a suspect who was carrying "hotcarded" credit and debit cards, connected to stolen data from the Target security breach,

For their part, Community Bank leaders said there really was no choice. Shortly after hearing the news, Community President Walter Healy said he and his employees made the decision to act, and act fast.

"We ran reports to indicate who might be affected by this breach, and we reached out to those specific customers."

As the Community bankers made call after call, they also hauled out a card-making device to crank out some 250 new debit cards. They handed them to customers that day, on the spot.

Community's proactive approach differed from that of some bigger banks, which put the onus on customers to keep watch on their accounts.

"I think it's a disaster to just wait and see," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says.

Madigan disagrees with the passive approach, encouraging consumers to close and re-open their bank accounts in light of a data breach. Now on a task force to investigate breaches, Madigan saves her strongest criticism for retailers.

"We repeatedly find large known corporations that have failed to encrypt data, have stored data that hasn't been encrypted, have failed to update and patch software vulnerabilities," Madigan said.

One solution with many supporters involves switching the magnetic strip on debit and credit cards to an embedded chip, technology praised for cutting retail losses in Europe by more than 60 percent. Just last week, merchants including Target said they will adopt chip-based cards in the near future. Target also offered credit monitoring to customers affected by the breach.

Will the new chip technology be enough to protect consumers? Some in the banking community say it will take more to get the retail community to clean up lax practices.

"If they were under the same scrutiny as we are as a regulated institution, as a bank this would never happen because they would be held accountable to the same stand that we are and we wouldn't be having this conversation," Healy said.

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