Off Target: What to Do If Your Information Is in Peril


We support reforms to the financial marketplace that protect consumers from unscrupulous banks and lenders.

By Consumers Union on Thursday, December 19th, 2013

by guest blogger Caitlin Watkins

Are you one of the 40 million Americans who had their debit or credit information stolen in the recent Target security breach?  If you shopped at any Target store from November 27 to December 15th and used a credit or debit card, you are mostly likely very concerned about your personal information.

Here is what you can do to keep up that holiday cheer by preventing fraudulent charges this season: regularly check your accounts for suspicious activity now and in the future. Once the swell of news coverage blows over about this breach, people are likely to forget about checking the accounts they used to make purchases at Target during this time.

But beware: that’s when the biggest opportunity will present itself for suspicious activity. That’s why it’s imperative that you monitor your account every couple of days, now and in the future.  If something comes up that raises a red flag, report any such activity to your financial institution or credit card company immediately because any liability for unauthorized charges can grow if you wait.

 According to news reports, the biggest danger is that your credit or debit card information was stolen. (Target said that names, account numbers, and CVV codes were swiped.) Although there is no evidence that social security numbers were stolen in the Target security breach, identity theft is a real threat. If you have been a victim of identity theft, here is what you can do:

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) or law enforcement to report incidents of identity theft or to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. To learn more, you can go to the FTC’s Web site, at, or call the FTC, at (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338) or write to Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

  • Set up a security freeze on your accounts, which limits others from opening up an account or getting new credit in your name. For more state-by-state information about security freeze protections, see Consumers Union’s Guide to Security Freeze Protection:

  • Check your credit report, free of charge, at or by calling (877) 322-8228. Under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

    For more information about what to do if you become a victim of identity theft see this step-by-step guide from the Federal Trade Commission.


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