If you shopped at Target for the holidays, your credit and identity may be at risk
Major holiday retailer, Target, released a press statement today on their website confirming that approximately 40 million credit card and debit accounts may have been compromised. It’s the biggest hacking scandal since T-Mobile admitted 17 million personal data files were compromised back in 2009.
In their statement, Target confirmed the breach and specified that credit card or debit accounts used between November 27th and December 15th may be at risk. Considering how many consumers depend on stores like Target for discount holiday shopping, this is a serious concern for millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, so many people depend on discount retailers like Target to make the holidays happen. But now those people have an added stress at the height of the holiday season that their credit card or debit account information may be used without their authorization. Talk about holiday stress!
Essentially, any consumer who shopped at a Target retailer on Black Friday or over the past few weeks, should have some concern that their credit or debit card information may already be in the hands of identity thieves.
But what should at-risk Target shoppers do?
Be vigilant. If you shopped at Target for the holidays, keep any eye on your credit card and bank statements over the next few months to make sure all of the charges are yours. If you see any charges you don’t recognize, it may be a sign of fraud.
Consolidated credit offers these tips:
- Check your statements carefully for unauthorized charges. Take time to read the transactions on your card line-by-line. If you’ve gone for paperless billing, you can usually download a copy of your statement through your online account.
- Pay attention to even small charges. With millions of records compromised, the hackers don’t need to make big charges on every account to make money – even $1.00 or $2.00 charges on 40 million accounts would be a nice sum of money, so look at the small charges just as closely as you would the bigger transactions.
- If you believe you’re a victim, place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. If you see evidence in your statements that your account has been compromised, take steps to protect yourself as much as possible. Fraud alerts notify you of erroneous charges and prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
Protect yourself against future hacks. No data storage or transaction system is 100% safe and even if one were created, hackers would find a way in eventually. Take these steps to keep your finances as safe as possible in case of a breach:
- Don’t use a debit card attached to your main bank account for online shopping.
- Consider using secured credit cards with low limits or prepaid credit cards that have a set amount of money. That way, if your information is compromised, the thieves aren’t spending tens of thousands in your name.
- Don’t leave accounts with your account information attached open if you’re not using them. Things like online movie streaming, delivery services, gaming websites and even some stores have your credit card information on file, the more of these accounts you have open, the more risk you have for identity theft.
Consolidated Credit offers additional tips to avoid online identity theft – particularly around the holidays – with a handy infographic on how to stay Cyber Safe when you shop online. We also have a guide on how to handle Identity Theft in general for more information.