TARGET BREACH: What to Do If You Might be a Victim - WBAY

TARGET BREACH: What to Do If You Might be a Victim

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Target Corporation announced Friday, January 10, that the data breach discovered last month may involve more than 70 million customers' credit card and personal information.

Target initially said hackers obtained about 40 million customers' names, credit and debit card numbers, expiration dates, security codes, PINs and other information stored on the cards' magnetic strips. Friday it said thieves also obtained phone numbers, mailing addresses and email addresses of shoppers in its U.S. stores between Wednesday, November 27, (the day before Thanksgiving) and Sunday, December 15.

Here are six things you should or can do to protect your credit and your identity:

1. Check your statements. Monitor your credit card and bank statements. The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau advises you check your statements online -- don't wait for it to come in the monthly mail. This is especially important for debit card users, since these take funds directly out of your financial account and don't carry the same protections as credit card accounts, the BBB says.

2. Report suspicious activity. Report any suspicious charges or activity immediately to the card's issuing bank or financial institution. If you used Target's REDcard (credit or debit), report suspicious activity to Target toll-free at 1-866-852-8680. You may also be asked to notify local police (call the non-emergency number), in case a police report is needed in the future.

3. Challenge unfamiliar charges. If you see a charge you're certain you didn't make, ask the merchant for a credit, no matter how small. The Better Business Bureau says identity thieves sometimes make small, unauthorized charges first -- testing whether the card works and if you'll notice. If the merchant won't reverse the charge, call your credit card's issuing bank and find out the process for disputing a charge. It's helpful to save your receipts, the Wisconsin BBB adds.

4. Monitor your credit. Federal law allows you to request one free credit report every 12 months from the three nationwide credit reporting companies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228 (also see information about extended fraud alerts in #5).

5. Make changes to your accounts. If you are, or believe you are, the victim of identity theft, the FTC says you can ask Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to put an Extended Fraud Alert on your credit file. This requires creditors to follow additional procedures -- which can make it harder for someone to get credit using your personal information but also slow down the process for you to legitimately obtain credit. An Extended Fraud Alert also allows you to request two free credit reports, not just one, from the three credit reporting companies within 12 months, and these companies must take your name off marketing lists for pre-screened credit offers for 5 years. There is no cost.

Equifax

1-800-525-6285
Experian

1-888-397-3742
TransUnion

1-800-680-7289

Debit card users may contact their financial institution and request a new debit card, the Wisconsin BBB says.

6. Consider paying for credit monitoring. For a monthly or annual fee, there are a number of credit monitoring companies that will track your credit file for suspicious activity. The BBB says these can save you a "significant amount of money" in the long run -- such as getting you a better mortgage rate -- by protecting your credit score and credit history. When choosing a credit monitoring company, find out what reports it monitors and how frequently. Credit comparison service Credit.com says a service shouldn't cost more than $160 a year and some offer a free trial period.

 

In addition, the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau warns everyone to beware of scams that may try to take advantage of this news -- such as phone calls, emails, or web sites saying your credit card information may be compromised and asking you to "verify" your information. Never provide personal or financial information if you didn't initiate the contact.

 

Additional information:

FTC Consumer: Protecting your identity and repairing identity theft

Target: Important Notice: Unauthorized access to payment card data in U.S. stores

Experian: Frequently Asked Questions about credit fraud

Better Business Bureau: An annual credit report sounds good, but is it enough?

Credit.com: How to choose a credit monitoring service

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