How did Target know a US teen was pregnant before her family did? (And why this is good for your credit card security)

Just like Google analyses websites, large retailers and banks analyse you and your purchasing habits.  It was reported in the media earlier this year that Target sent coupons for discounts on baby products to a teenager.  Her father complained to the store manager about the appropriateness of this however a little later it turned out that she was pregnant.So how did they know?  They deduced this by looking at her recent purchases – perhaps of pregnancy vitamins or similar.Could this happen in Australia?  Probably not at this stage.  US consumers use loyalty cards such as fly-buys more than we do in Australia and because of the larger population they can justify the expense of running the IT systems needed to support this.

It does happen here on a smaller scale though!  Banks use information like this to build a “profile” of the kind of purchases that you make and this actually helps them to detect fraudulant transactions on your credit card.  A good example of this is that I do use my credit card frequently to purchase things online, and often from overseas websites.  My banks profile on me suggested though that when a bet was placed on a UK website that it probably was not me and they called me at 7am one morning to let me know that they had cancelled my card and would be sending me a new one!

How do you avoid your credit card being misused?
•    Check your credit card statements
•    Make sure that your bank has your email address and mobile phone number so that they can contact you
•    Let them know in advance if you will be making unusual purchases – eg travelling overseas or buying something out-of-the-ordinary
•    Consider having a second email address that you provide to people that you don’t want to hear from in the long term and replace this from time to time. Eg. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Written By Steve Bakker