The data breach at Target stores is a nightmare of a Christmas present to up to 40 million store customers. Shoppers at the store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 might have had their account data taken, including names, credit and debit card numbers and the expiration dates. The three-digit security codes on the back of the cards might also have been taken in the breach.
Those who possibly were affected should take steps to make sure there is no impact. The first and most important step anyone should take with news of the breach is to determine whether you might have shopped at Target during those times. If you did you should monitor your accounts closely, making sure you are not seeing charges or purchases you did not make.
If you do spot transactions that are not yours, report it immediately to the financial institution that issued you the card. You might consider contacting Target at 866-852-8680 as well. If you detect fraud you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and fill out the agency’s Identity Theft Victim’s Complaint and Affidavit.
Your state attorney general might also be a worthwhile place to report problems. Check your state’s website to find the attorney general’s site and then look for the consumer protection section. Many states have easy forms you can fill out to report consumer problems, including fraud.
For those wishing to prevent being affected by a problem like this one, one of the only ways to do it is to pay in cash as often as possible. Not only does paying in cash make you almost invulnerable to potential fraud, people spending with cash spend less, according to Forbes Magazine, so you end up saving money.
If you do primarily pay with plastic there are a few steps you can take to avoid being victimized by those who would steal your information.
Never give out your card information over the phone unless you have initiated the conversation. Even then, make sure you are dealing with a reputable company.
Open your bills as soon as you get them to look at the charges on your account. Most accounts are also accessible online, so you can usually get an instant look at even the most spending you have been doing.
Save receipts and verify them against your bills.
When you go out shopping take only the cards you need and consider keeping them separate from your wallet or purse.
With the sophisticated ways thieves have of accessing information we would rather they didn’t, it might be impossible to guarantee your financial information will never be stolen. But even those who do fall victim to identity theft or fraud can arm themselves by paying close attention to their finances, particularly to the accounts they spend on.
For those who shopped at Target between Thanksgiving and Dec. 15, this is an especially important time to make sure you don’t become a victim of theft.