Steps to Take Now That Your Credit and Debit Card Data Has Been Breached
This is not the marketing promotion Target envisioned the week before Christmas. Today, the national retailer disclosed that possibly as many as 40,000,000 credit and debit card accounts used in United States’ stores may have been affected by an unauthorized data breach of their system. Affected credit card transactions occurred between November 27, 2013 (the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week) and December 15, 2013. Information compromised included the following:
- The customer name
- Credit or debit card number
- The card’s expiration date
- The three digit security code on the back of the card
Target is investigating, but at this point, the horse is out of the barn. They have said, and are doing, all the right things to minimize potential damage, shore up their internal IT, as well as reassure customers this is very important to them. Regardless, such a breach once again gives us the opportunity to provide you with some proactive identity theft advice.
Identity theft is the fasting growing white collar crime in the United States.
Taking a proactive approach can mitigate any potential future losses. You must be vigilant, not just now as a Target shopper, but all year round. And in this case, definitely in the future.
Combating the crime of identity theft is for the most part reactionary – in other words something “bad” had already occurred. It’s YOUR responsibility, not Target’s, to make sure that you are not an identity theft victim. Target is not providing free fraud monitoring to the 40,000,000 affected consumers. Since you may have not been a “victim” as yet, let’s review some preventative measures that you may wish to consider.
Cancel the Credit Card that You May Have Used at Target
Knowing what we do that the breach only involved information reflected on the credit card itself, and not personal information, the easiest solution is to cancel the card that you used there and have a new one issued. However, during the final stretch of Christmas shopping, some may not want to do that as a new card may take a few days to arrive, and well there is still a lot of shopping to compete before Christmas next week.
Place a Fraud Alert
Contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus and request to place a fraud alert on any names wherein personal information has been compromised. A “Fraud Alert” is free and lasts for 90 days. The three bureaus share fraud alerts with each other.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Issuing a fraud alert will make it more difficult for you to secure credit since the credit bureau will now have to verify your identity before credit is granted. A fraud alert is not the same as freezing your credit. Someone can still access your credit report with a fraud alert in place if you so authorize.
Secure Your Free Credit Reports
By law you are permitted to secure for free one copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (phone numbers above). You should secure a copy now and do so going forward on an annual basis. If you note any transaction that is not yours report it immediately to the credit card institution, the three credit reporting bureaus and even local law enforcement.
Credit Monitoring Services
Another option to consider, since Target is not providing this, is to consider a credit monitoring service. Remember, you can do for free what a credit monitoring service does for a fee. A credit monitoring service can place a fraud alert on your account as well place a freeze on your credit. A credit monitoring service will usually send you an email alerting you that credit is being extended in your name or that someone has inquired as to your credit. Credit monitoring services charge based on the frequency of notification – the more frequent notification, the higher the cost.
Place a Credit Freeze on Your Account
It is easy and relatively inexpensive to freeze your credit. Fees associated with initiating a credit freeze vary by state. For Ohio residents, placing a “freeze” on your account, if you have not been an identity theft victim, will cost $5 per account per credit reporting bureau. If you have been an identity theft victim and have filed a police report these services are free. To “thaw” your account or to remove the “freeze” will also cost you $5 per transaction per credit reporting bureau.
All you need to do is contact each of the three credit reporting bureaus. A freeze will last until you remove it. If you need to “thaw” your credit in order to allow someone access to it, remember there is a $5 fee to “thaw” and then a $5 fee to “re-freeze” your account for each credit reporting bureau.
- Equifax 1-800-685-1111 (Press 3)
- TransUnion 1-888-909-8872
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
File a Police Report
We always recommend that identity theft victims immediately file a police report, but in your case, your identity may not have been fraudulently used (at this point) without your authorization. As a result you are not a victim. Nonetheless, you must remain vigilant in monitoring your credit.
Need Additional Assistance
If you do determine that you have been a “victim” of a fraudulent financial transaction, or have a business wherein we can assist by performing a risk assessment in order to identify and minimize your risk of loss and the unwanted and free negative publicity that Target is receiving, please contact Frank Suponcic, CPA, CFE, CFF at Skoda Minotti at (440) 449-6800 and we can assist you and recommend additional steps beyond these preventative measures discussed herein.
Skoda Minotti is Delivering on the Promise of helping you protect your identity; call us at 440-449-6800 and ask to speak with a fraud and identity expert. Learn more- download our FREE Fraud Prevention E-book.