Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: As attacks like the one on Target have exposed up to 40 million customer payment card accounts and the names, addresses and email addresses of as many as 70 million shoppers, Tiffany Hsu and E. Scott Reckard report in the LA Times that increased activity by data hackers has produced millions of victims but there has been one big winner: credit monitoring businesses. "It's almost a terrible thing to say, but these kinds of situations raise awareness of the need to protect yourself and to be more vigilant in checking your transactions," says Yaron Samid. Meanwhile services with names such as BillGuard and Identity Guard report a surge in sign-ups from people anxious to be protected. For example, the number of AAA Southern California members opting in for the club's identity theft monitoring service — whether for free or for an extra charge — boomed in January, up 58% from December. "I have to believe part of it was these different data breaches that have been occurring, people being concerned about that," says Jeffrey Spring. The BillGuard credit monitoring application, launched in July, uses crowd-sourced reporting from its members to issue alerts about possible payment card security concerns. Since the Target breach, the app's user base has ballooned by nearly half a million participants and identified $1 million in fraud. “We have built a crowd-source system of identifying fraud on debit or credit cards,” says Samid. “The system will ask others if this charge is OK or not OK, and if system see a few people saying this is not an unauthorized charge, we alert others that it is potentially fraudulent. The more people that join the network, the more effective it gets." Card issuers and transaction processors have spent hundreds of millions of dollars dealing with electronic fraud in the last three years says Michael Moebs and consumers can soon expect increased annual fees to recoup the costs. "The view is data breaches and hacking have become a way of life, and the industry must get used to it."