Scam of the day – December 21, 2013 – What to do if you were a Target hacking victim

With 40 million credit and debit cards affected by the recent hacking of Target, there is a good chance that many Scamicide readers are a part of that group that includes my own wife.  The hacking of Target once again shows that regardless of how careful you are, you are only as safe from identity theft as the place with the weakest security that holds or processes your personal information such as credit cards.  Today I am going to provide the simple steps that you should take if your credit card or debit card was compromised.

TIP

First of all, resolve not to use your debit card for purchases.  Reserve its use for ATMs.  The maximum that you are possibly liable for in regard to fraudulent charges on your credit card is only $50 and most credit card issuers won’t charge you anything.  However, with a debit card, if you don’t notice the illegal withdrawals from your bank account in a timely fashion, you risk losing all of the money in the account and even if you do report the fraudulent activity right away, you will not be made whole by the bank until they have completed an investigation of the matter.

The next thing you should do is check your credit card statement for illegal activity.  Do this online for both speed and to see the most recent transactions.  If fraudulent purchases appear, notify the credit card company to have them remove the charges.  Also file a police report.  You should then cancel the card and have the credit card company issue you a new card.  Even if you have not yet noticed illegal activity, you shouldn’t be complacent because generally in these situations, the thieves sell the stolen credit card information on black market websites and there may be a long time lag before you would see illegal activity on your card.  Why wait for the inevitable?  Cancel the card and get another one.

You also should use this opportunity to obtain your free credit report in order to make sure that there is no evidence of identity theft.  Go to www.annualcreditreport.com.  This is the only source for the free credit reports that you have a right to have by law.  Many other websites with similar names may provide you with a free credit report, but in the fine print, you may find that you have unwittingly signed up for a costly service that you do not want or need.

Finally, you may wish to consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone has sufficient personal information about you to otherwise gain access to your credit report in order to use it to make a large purchase, they would not be able to get access to your credit report because it is frozen and can only be made available by you using a PIN.  You can find all the information you need about credit freezes here on Scamicide.  Just go to the column on the right and click on “credit freezes.”