One of my clients emailed me on Saturday. She’d recently shopped at a Dallas area Target store to pick up some items for Christmas and had just read the news about the credit card breach at Target stores across the country. She was concerned and wanted to know what to do.
News services on the internet, as well as local television stations and The Dallas Morning News reported that data connected with about 40 million credit and debit card accounts was stolen between November 27th and December 15th. The stolen data included the card holder’s name, credit / debit card account number, expiration date, and the code that’s embedded in the magnetic strip on the back of each card. What’s not certain is whether the 3 or 4 digit security code on the back of each card was captured.
The stolen data was captured at the point of sale stations inside Target stores: the ones where we swipe our cards and either sign for a credit card purchase or enter the personal identification number for purchased made with a debit card. Shoppers who purchased items on-line from Target’s web site were not affected.
This is the second largest theft of credit card data. The largest one began in 2005 and involved TJX Companies which includes retail stores TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, Winners, and Home Sense. That theft impacted 45.7 million card users. Target discovered the theft on December 15th and successfully closed the breach. They have yet to publicly release how the breach occurred. Target is fully cooperating with investigators including the Secret Service who has broad jurisdiction with cases involving the nation’s financial infrastructure.
A number of people have already been impacted by the theft of this data having discovered false purchases being made with their accounts. My client has so far avoided this, but the suggestions I provided her include:
- Monitor your account carefully
- Replace the accounts
I recommended my client monitor her account daily for any unauthorized use. While the majority of people probably won’t have any suspicious charges on their accounts, many people will. It’s hard to tell how long a person would need to monitor their accounts until the coast is clear.
All card companies have a policy for dealing with false charges. This typically involves the purchase being verified as an unauthorized transaction and then crediting the account the amount of that purchase. This, however, can be a time consuming process which is why I recommended my client consider have the card cancelled and replaced. To my knowledge, this is the only way to be assured of closing the gate before any unauthorized purchases are made.
Home owners and renter’s insurance policies do have optional credit card and identity theft coverage available. This coverage pays for time lost from work, as well as expenses and fees incurred for items being notarized, mailing, and applications for credit that need to be redone. This coverage is helpful but only comes into play once unauthorized use has occurred.
There are credit monitoring services that can help with whatever you do going forward, but I’m not sure how helpful they’d be now. What are your thoughts, questions, or experiences you’d like to share? Share them with me in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!