Target data breech has holiday shoppers on edge

EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. — Target has announced that nearly 40 million credit and debit card accounts could have been affected by a massive breach, and it couldn't come at a worse time.

Heading into the last weekend before Christmas, it's one of the busiest times for holiday shopping.

Target says the breach started two days before Black Friday and lasted until December 15, involving stores across the country.

The stolen data includes the customer's name, card number, expiration date and even the three digit security code on the back of the card. The company says once it became aware it immediately told authorities and the financial institutions that issued the cards and is teaming up with a separate forensics firm to investigate the matter. Still, shoppers say the breech has left them concerned.

“I was thinking about getting cash and just going in there and using cash. I actually didn't do that, so I'm just hoping that our credit cards are secure,” said Hans Schober of Austerlitz.

“Every place you go that's all anybody ever uses now these days. I mean, nobody writes checks hardly anymore. But you got to be more cautious I guess. I guess cash is the way to go,” said Mike Pannitti of Wyantskill.

Target is advising customers who think they have been victimized to check their statements carefully and report that activity to their credit card company and call Target at 866-852-8680. The breech only impacted in-store shoppers, not any Target.com of Canada store visitors.

You can view the full Target statement here.

The NY Attorney General's Office held a press conference Thursday afternoon issuing the following advice:

What to do if you might be a victim:

  • Report to any of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Transunion or Experian) that you may been a victim of identity theft. Make sure the credit reporting agency has your current contact information so they can get in contact with you.
  • Ask the credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert on your credit file.  [This will still allow you to use your credit card.] If you put a fraud alert on your file, you're entitled to a free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies
  • You also have a right to put a credit freeze on your credit file.  This will block the issuance of any new credit.  This means you won't be able to apply for any new credit cards or loans, but you can use your existing cards.
  • You should also check your credit activity daily.  You don't need to wait for your monthly statement, though you should check that as well.  Many banks provide online information to account holders about recent activity.

What to do if you are a victim:

  • Create an identity theft fraud report.  To create one, file a complaint with the FTC and print your Identity Theft Affidavit. Use that to file a police report and create your Identity Theft Report.
  • An Identity Theft Report will help you deal with credit reporting companies, debt collectors and any fraudulent accounts that the ID thief opened in your name.
  • Put a freeze (not just a fraud alert) on your credit report.  The freeze can only be removed by you.  Contact one of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion or Experian) and tell them you want the freeze on your file. 
  • Get your credit report from each of the three agencies.  You are entitled to free reports once you post a fraud alert or put a freeze on your account.  Read the reports carefully to see whether other fraudulent transactions or accounts are listed, and then take steps to correct the errors.
  • Check your credit card account daily to look for any irregular activity.
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