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One Moment, Please... Operation: Target

Fri, Dec 27th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

Please forgive me in advance of the overuse of the word TARGET, but there is a bit of irony in the fact that over 40 million consumers spending money with the Target Corporation became victims of a “targeted” credit card breach.

This entire situation brings to light so many angles to consider, but I will merely touch the surface of each of those thoughts that popped in my head once I heard the news.

Our Exposure

In some ways, we are all guilty of exposing ourselves to identity theft and this particular credit card breach. Years ago, we lobbied for the option of being placed on a “DO NOT CALL LIST” so we wouldn’t be harassed by telemarketing firms. Many consumers expressed concerns about how telemarketers were invading their private lives, usually around supper time, and there were many salespeople who were pushy and even obnoxious. There was a good reason for creating a “DO NOT CALL LIST” -- to protect consumers.

So, why, today, do we showcase our cell phone numbers, birth dates, kids’ pictures, family pictures, place of employment, academic credentials, and much, much more on,, and many other networking websites? Even if you are not linked or friends with other people, your information is out there for anyone to find and utilize in any manner.

If you’ve seen the weekly TV show “Catfish,” you know just what I am talking about. Someone can steal your identity and run with it, acquiring credit cards in your name, and so much more. And, with technology at our fingertips, more would-be criminals have entered the game. It is easier to get away with crimes as a result of the Internet. Local police departments are flooded with calls throughout the nation from consumers ripped off by scams on every single day. It’s a fact of life we need to be aware of as we utilize technology and connect with people we don’t know.

With the Target Corporation credit card breach, as has been discussed in the media, if this was a crime committed on an international level, the means to pursue any legal action become far less. And, at this point, the Target Corporation doesn’t know who breached their system.

I think the biggest lesson to be learned in this entire situation is that less is more. The less information you make available to those who seek to commit these types of crimes, the more secure your identity and financial situation.

Stocks vs. Houses

Yes, the Target Corporation stock price has held pretty strong throughout this credit card crisis during what could possibly be the worst time of year to have such news break -- during the Christmas shopping rush of the fourth quarter.

But, this credit card breach, my friends, is exactly why I will always endorse purchasing real estate instead of publicly traded stocks. When you buy shares of a company, you are investing in a lot of variables. What if there is another “cooking the books” scandal (like Enron)? What if there is a change in leadership that takes a company down the wrong path (like J.C. Penney)?

Back in 2008, when the financial crisis was building like a pressure cooker, shares of Circuit City were dropping to record lows. It seemed like a good buy if you didn’t know what the future would hold. There is no more Circuit City. By the end of 2009, all 567 retail stores were gone. Best Buy and Blockbuster have fallen into the same hole, and shareholders can’t help but to question if or how they will rebound.

From 1994 to 1998, I served as the secretary of a 15-member stock market investment group. I was vested just the same as all other members of the group. We worked together to evaluate stocks and then pooled our money together to buy shares of common stock directly from corporations like AFLAC, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Zurn, and Pfizer. And, even though when our group dissolved, all of us walked away with net gains, I still felt a bit uneasy about the risks we were taking all along. Maybe I was the only one in our group who felt that way.

With that said, home buyers can control when and where they buy a property. They can even have an influence on how much they pay for a property. My take has always been to not get too emotionally attached. Make decisions based on what makes sense for your budget in conjunction with what other properties are selling for in the market.

And, after you purchase a property, you can make it better and more valuable. A little paint and carpet go a long way. If you are looking to make a sound investment in something that will grow in value as you grow older, contact one of the realtors in this newspaper and they will help you find what you are looking for. To me, a house is more than a home; it’s an investment.

As “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki said in his book, “You make money when you buy a property, not when you sell it.” Keep that in mind.

Buying Local

Lastly, the Target Corporation credit card breach brings to light the value and importance of shopping local. The Target Corporation is so big that they don’t know where the breach was coming from.

With over 361,000 employees working at 1,921 locations, if this was an “inside job” as speculated, the Target Corporation is a big enough company that this could become as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack. Again, officials at the Target Corporation do not know exactly where the breach occurred, but I’m sure we’ll hear more about it in the coming days.

My point is that your locally-owned “mom and pop” businesses in our small rural communities know what is going on in their businesses. The odds of a scam developing are very unlikely because small staff sizes make it very easy to pinpoint a culprit.

So, shopping local is another way you can look at protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud. I would challenge you to disagree.

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