If you keep an eye on the news you have probably already seen the story that was released today:
What this means is that if you shopped at Target between November 27 and December 15 and paid with a debit or credit card you need to keep a very close eye on your account activity in the coming weeks and months. Assume that your debit and or credit card number is now in the hands of thieves and take steps to protect yourself.
If you used a debit card at Target…
You’re in an extremely vulnerable position. The thieves who stole those account numbers have direct access to the entirety of your bank account and all accounts attached to it. The safest course of action is to cancel that debit card immediately.
If you used a credit card at Target…
If thieves use your account you can relax somewhat because you’re covered by Federal law. The money they are using belongs to the credit card company, not you. As you receive statements in the coming months be sure to go over each one with a fine-toothed comb and take note of every charge. (It’s a good idea to do this even when you’re not worried about your card being compromised.) Anything you do not recognize to be yours should be disputed with the card issuer. You will not be required to pay that portion of your outstanding balance. The credit card company will remove those charges and investigate based on your dispute.
The good news? From what Target has said, the information that was stolen was not personally identifying information. Without your Social Security number and address it’s difficult for whoever is behind the breach to apply for credit in your name. Still, if you have noticed suspicious activity on your credit card account or if you had to cancel your debit card, it is probably prudent to have the credit bureaus place a fraud alert on your credit file. An alert lasts for 90 days and tells any lender who pulls your credit that additional steps should be taken to verify your identity. After two or three months, check your credit report to make sure all the information is accurate. (That extra time will allow Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to pick up on other debt obligations or unauthorized cards.) If you discover information on your credit report, remember that you have the right to dispute that information. (We’ve discussed how to obtain a free copy of your report from each of the three credit bureaus and how to dispute errors on your reports in a past Common Cents blog here, if you need a review.)