consumer spending

Target credit card breach: it's worse than you think.


40 million. 70 million. Now close to 110 million customers of Target ($TGT) have not received word their personal data including financial information, phone numbers and home addresses are now in the hands of overseas hackers. Sound like a scene from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo? The executives at Target only wish. Right now the retailer is getting ready for a congressional probe into their consumer protection practices. This is a run down of what you should know (source: Reuters):

What is happening: Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for the panel to investigate the hacking of credit card data belonging to millions of customers of Target Corp stores.

The letter said a hearing should review current consumer protection laws and determine what could be done to ensure the future security of consumers' card information.

Quote from the letter: "It is incumbent upon our Committee to explore whether industry data protection standards are appropriate, and examine whether heightened regulatory standards are needed to more effectively protect consumers," the Democrats wrote.

What that means: Congress wants to figure out if Target was in violation of failing to effectively protect the consumer.

Hearing is supposed to be scheduled for late January.

What can we expect out of the hearing: Would allow for an airing of grievances and potentially bring Target officials to Washington for a grilling about how the case has been handled, they would not necessarily result in taking any kind of action or in legislation.

In addition: The Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general would potentially look into Target's actions in this situation.

The FTC does not confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations and would only get involved if Target is shown to have failed to protect its customers' data.

Target has said it is working in partnership with the Secret Service, the lead agency involved in the data breach case, and the Department of Justice but did not comment on any FTC involvement

Why do we care/why is this important: Not real Federal regulation on the retail side when it comes to security and consumer protection.

A bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy remains the only data security bill on tap for now-- THAT'S THE ONLY BILL THAT EXISTS!

FTC has the power to investigate companies’ privacy and information security policies and ensure that they meet proper standards, it has asserted.

It has previously brought cases against companies that it determined didn’t do enough to protect consumer data, and Blumenthal suggested it should consider doing so again.

QUOTE: “Given the scope and duration of Target’s recent data breach, it appears that Target may have failed to employ reasonable and appropriate security measures to protect personal information,” Blumenthal wrote. “If Target failed to adequately protect customer information, it denied customers the protection that they rightly expect when a business collects their personal information. Its conduct would be unfair and deceptive, and it would clearly violate the FTC Act.”

Additional info on $TGT you as a consumer should know:

Point of sale: As a merchant, you’d better make sure shoppers trust that they’re not exposing themselves to identity theft and credit-card fraud every time they swipe. Even Target, a huge company with big bucks to spend on security, hasn’t managed to assure such certainty (source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

Methods hackers use to get information:

Skimming: Attaching a physical device to a machine to gather information

"RAM Scraping": "Random Access Memory" Malware scans computer system's memory for personal information.

U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT), a cyber watchdog that’s part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Target has not disclosed how malware got into the system

#SNAPchallenge organic menu: not just beans and rice

S.N.A.P. = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

When I think of budget eating I think of two food items: rice and beans. The thought of eating two things I can't stand for seven days straight made me dizzy and nervous. After careful thought and planning I came up with a menu that was 1) all organic ingredients 2) 80% vegetarian 3) had equal parts protien, veggies and fruit. THE problem with budget eating (and eating in general) in this country is that no one wants to take the time to plan out their meals. Slow down people! COOK more. It's healthy, cheaper and better for you.


Breakfast: banana, tea

Egg, toast + glass of milk

Lunch: Tuna sandwiches

Dinner: Asian noodle dish x 2


Breakfast: banana chia seed porriage, tea

Steel cut oats w/ almond milk, agave + frozen blueberries

Lunch: Tuna salad (artichoke hearts, cannelli beans, olive oil, green beans, onion)

butternut squash soup

Dinner: left over Asian noodles


Breakfast: banana, tea

Egg, toast + glass of milk

Lunch: Tuna sandwiches/lunch meat sandwhiches

Dinner: Beef burgers, roast veggies

FRIDAY: Breakfast: banana + chia seed porriage, tea

Egg, toast, + glass of milk

Lunch: Tuna + quinoa salad with Siracha sauce

Dinner: Potato Latkes and homemade apple sauce


Breakfast: banana + tea

Lunch: Egg sandwich + cheese

grilled cheese w/ tomato soup

Dinner: left over asian noodles OR pasta + homemade sauce


Breakfast: banana + tea

Lunch: Blueberry muffins/ eggs

Dinner: Beef patties + baked french fries


Breakfast: Steel cut oatmeal + frozen fruit

Lunch: Tuna sandwiches + soup

Dinner left over pasta + meat balls


Breakfast: banana + tea

Lunch: Lunch meat sandwiches

Dinner: leftovers/soup

Don't know what to tip this season? Read/watch THIS.

Going over budget for me is like a holiday tradition in itself.Every December since I've started working I put aside a certain amount of money to spend on dinners out, gifts, travel and of course tipping. Without fail, I ALWAYS go over budge. Now when I say "tipping" this isn't referring to servers at restaurants, cafes and bars. But since we are on the subject, you should always tip minimum 20% (or tax x 2) regardless of where you are in the country. In this case, "tipping" means that added cash bonus you give to the people who help you the most during the year. Kids baby sitters, hair/beauty technicians, mechanics, doormen (if you live in an apt), housekeepers (if you are lucky enough to have one) and teachers/trainers. With the economy on shakey ground, and uncertainty creeping into our bank accounts, the last thing you want to do is be a grinch- however, you also don't want to bankrupt yourself. Hence, the dilemma. I had the opportunity to break down my guidelines given the tough economy with Savannah Gutherie on the Today Show last Thursday. Check it:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Who is on your list to tip this year? Let's discuss!

Retail Sector: On Road to Recovery?

Retail Sector: On Road to Recovery?

YES we are in the midst of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week FW10 prep BUT that doesn't mean the retail sector or the economy comes to a standstill. On Thursday I was on CNBC to talk about same store sales and whether or not the positive upswing was an indication the economy is recovering. My verdict: definitely not. January is typically the easiest month when it comes to comps and if you are doing a year over year comparison, most retailers reported horrible numbers this time last year therefore any positive numbers being reported will of course seem amazing. Also, retailers notoriously targeted the bottom line over the past months which means stores were closed, jobs were cut and inventories were slashed. This contributed to the incredible turnaround companies like Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) and Saks Fifth Ave (SAKS) experienced. Consumer spending has a direct correlation to jobless claims and the unemployment rate. Once both of those numbers come down significantly, we will see substantial numbers for these retailers. To check out the video click here.