BBB offers some advice for Target customers concerned their credit or debit cards may have been compromised by the data breach announced by the retailer this week.
"If you used a credit card at Target in the past few weeks, don't panic," advises Warren Clark, president of Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York. "You are not liable for any fraudulent charges on your account, and there are some simple things you can do to make sure your card was not used fraudulently."
"Target has issued a warning for consumers and is working with banks and credit card issuers to alert them to which numbers were stolen," Clark added. "You can expect to hear from your bank if your card information is identified as having been compromised, and you can always call the customer service number on your card if you have a question."
BBB suggests the following advice.
For those who shopped at Target with a credit card:
•Monitor your credit card statements carefully (go online; don't wait for the paper statement).
•If you see a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately so the charge can be reversed and a new card issued.
•Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and which ones you did not.
For those who shopped at Target with a debit card:
•Do all of the above as for credit cards, but pay very careful attention to your account, as debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards and debit transactions withdraw funds directly from your bank account. Contact your bank for more information, or if you want to pre-emptively request a new debit card or put a security block on your account.
For everyone, not just those who shopped at Target:
Beware of scammers who will likely use this highly public event to purport to be from Target, your bank or your credit card issuer, telling you your card was compromised and suggesting actions to "fix" the problem.
•Check before you click. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware designed to steal your identity. Don't click on any email links or attachments unless you are absolutely certain the sender is authentic.
•Contact any affected financial companies - If your bank accounts, credit card accounts, or investment accounts are affected, immediately contact the companies and request the account be closed and a new one opened.
•Consider a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies - The credit reporting agencies are required by law to flag your credit report for 90 days if you file a fraud alert. Then if someone tries to open a new account using your information you should be contacted for verification.
•Sign up for any free credit report monitoring that's offered - If Target offers a free monitoring program take advantage of it.
•Keeping watching - For those who have been exposed to a breach of data, it's important to continue to monitor for two or more years. Unless there is clear proof that the data never fell into criminal hands, there is still a point of concern for the exposed consumer. The bad guys understand the data is hot for a year or so. Experts note it's not unusual for crooks to wait to delay use of stolen data.
•Check your free credit report -
Many advertisements claim to offer "free credit reports," "free credit scores"
or "free credit monitoring." Often, the service is free only if you sign up for
another service that isn't free. The best way to check your report is through AnnualCreditReport.com, a service
sponsored by the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax
The service is available online or by calling 1-877-322-8228, and it allows consumers to get a free report from each agency once a year. Consumers also may go to the website and download a request form that can be mailed to an address in Atlanta. Mailed reports normally arrive within two or three weeks.
For all businesses that collect customer information:
•Make sure you protect your customers' data. If a data breach can happen to a major retailer with significant data security measures in place, it can happen to any business.
•Check out BBB's updated online guide "Data Security - Made Simpler" for free information on how to create a data security plan.
Target is a BBB-accredited business and a national partner of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
For more BBB information you can trust, visit bbb.org.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust.