Millions of Target shoppers have been on edge, waiting to see if anything happens to the credit cards they used at Target during the busy holiday shopping season.
The revelation that that personal information belonging to up to 110 million Americans was disturbing, disconcerting, and left many of you wondering how to protect yourself.
There are several different steps you can take. At the very least, you should be closely monitoring any credit cards that you used at Target between November 27th and December 15th, when the breach occurred. If you used a debit card at Target during that time, you should have definitely changed your PIN by now, and you might consider just canceling the card and establishing a new account to be on the safe side.
If you'd like to protect yourself further, here are two other steps you can take on your own.
1) If you are very concerned about the security of your accounts, you can ask the three credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert on your account. Those three agencies are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
2) You can setup alerts on all of your accounts so that you are notified if there are any suspicious charges as soon as the happen. That notification can come via text message, email, or phone call.
Finally, you should know the hackers may be selling your information on the black market and its possible that it will not be used right away. "I would suggest that not only do you maintain your vigilance now, you maintain that vigilance months and months down the line," said Professor Lewis Langham of Cooley Law School.
Taking Target's Offer of Free Credit Monitoring
Target has offered customers one free year of credit monitoring. You can find more information at this link. During the fallout from the data breach, some experts say you should not click on links in emails, because Target is not sending any links embedded in its emails. If there is a link to click on, it could be a fake.
Instead, write the address down and type into your browser yourself, so you make sure you're not clicking on something that's been corrupted. Read through all the information before deciding if you'd like to sign up.
If you do sign up, be sure to check your credit report very carefully, and you do not need to pay for your credit score.
Beware Scam Artists!
The Target data breach also presents a golden opportunity for scam artists to reach out to you, looking to grab your personal information or infect your computer with malware. Beware of any emails that come your way offering solutions, credit monitoring, or other services in connection with the data breach.
Scammers will pretend to offer you help to get you to click on a bogus link or to trick you into sending your personal information. Last week, many Americans were confused about an email from Target. Some wrote to Ruth to the Rescue asking if the email was legitimate. We found that particular email WAS sent out by Target.
If you get an email that seems to be from Target, you can check on Target's website (link below).
where the store is posting copies of all the legitimate emails its sending. If your email doesn't match up with one of those posted, delete, and move on!
As always, its best for you to be in charge of what credit protection you might want to use to protect your accounts. You should go to the websites or call companies you know to be legitimate to see what services might help. You should NEVER purchase, click on links, or share personal information through an email that comes to you, unsolicited. You could making a huge mistake!!
The Target page to compare emails can be found here.