Consumers urged to use cash in wake of Target's credit-card theft

With the swipe of a credit card, a purchase can be made.

But your personal information can be swiped just as easily, according to Dina Sanchez, owner at A1 Credit Repair in Pharr.

"It is time to be concerned," she says. "This is not an isolated issue."

Dina makes a living trying to help identity theft victims.

She knows the damage credit card thieves can cause hard-working people.

Lives are turned upside down.

"How long can it take for victims to recover from identity theft?" Action 4's Ryan Wolf asked.

"Sometimes it takes a year-and-a-half, sometimes two years," Dina answered.

That's especially scary for the 40 million people who had their credit card records stolen by hackers at Target, plus 70 million name-and-address records.

Around the same time, someone stole credit-card records from Neiman Marcus, too.

"We don't know the full scope," Dina said. "The breach is way bigger than what we think."

Dina suggests paying with cash.

But she knows that's not always an option.

Credit card users are protected from identity theft, according to Dina.

Debit card users, could be out of luck.

"With a credit card you have some protection that they will be able to help you to retrieve that money back," she explained. "Debit card information, it goes straight to your bank. They can pull your whole money out and you wouldn't even know it."

Adding to the frustration over the credit card scare, scammers are preying on unsuspecting victims.

Dolores Salinas, president of the Rio Grande Valley chapter of the Better Business Bureau, says there are ways to protect yourself.

She says to watch out for bogus phone calls and phishing attempts.

Crooks are reaching out to steal your personal information by claiming to help over the phone, according to Dolores.

It's the same scam online with phony sites looking to steal your name and password when you sign in.

She urges everyone to check their financial statements for signs of fraud.

No charge should be overlooked.

Dina agrees.

"You're only as good as your credit," she says.

Protect it at all costs.

Be on the lookout:

If you had your information stolen from the Target breach, click here to find out what you should do.

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