Target customers who used a credit or debit card at the register from November 27 – December 15 may be the next victims of debit and credit card fraud.
The theft of card information was not an online breach. Instead, the criminals targeted the point of sale (POS) terminals where customers swipe their credit and debit cards at the checkout register. That means that your card information may already be in the hands of third party criminals who are likely already purchasing the stolen card data.
The bad news for credit card customers is that your cards can be reproduced quickly and utilized by criminals to max out your credit limit with unauthorized purchases. The action can happen quickly, with a few large purchases being completed within just a few hours.
The news is worse for debit card customers if you entered your PIN code. You could find your bank account cleaned out one day.
Hackers received card numbers, expiration dates and even the 3 digit security code from the back of the card. Information was taken from as many as 40 million card accounts.
Stolen Cards Already in Circulation
There is evidence that some of the stolen card data is already for sale. Massive volumes of stolen card data have been dumped on black markets where criminals often shop for stolen credit and debit cards.
Once the information has been sold, those criminal gangs can begin using the stolen cards within the hour. All they have to do is swipe a blank card to load it with your card data and they can start shopping immediately. Even worse, if they took your debit card information they could be on the way to the ATM to clean out your bank accounts.
How to Spot Signs of Fraud
If you suspect that you might be one of the victims, you should examine all charges carefully for any unauthorized charges. Look beyond Target purchases, since your card could be used at any retailer by a criminal.
Most fraud victims look for large purchases that they did not make. However, the first sign of unauthorized activity is usually a very small purchase. Often credit card thieves will attempt a very small transaction to prove that the card is active. Charges of as little as $1 are common, since the buyers of the reproduced cards will need assurance that they will be able to use the cards. Therefore, you should really go down the list of all charges to see if there are any signs of usage that was outside of your control.
If you believe that your account was compromised, you should contact your credit or debit card issuer immediately. There is a telephone number on the back, and the first option when you call is usually to report theft or lost cards. You may also receive information about the Target credit card breach specifically by calling 866-528-8680.
You are not responsible for unauthorized use as long as you report the activity immediately. While debit card issuers may stick you with the first $50, they usually waive all unauthorized use if you are quick to report the activity. Wait around and you could be on the hook for some of the charges. Of course, it can still be an inconvenience when you are waiting for your checking account balance to be restored, since it could be several days before the funds are redeposited into your account. This can cause problems when the rent or mortgage payment is due as well as car payments and other major bills.
Long is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in Industrial Relations. He subsequently received his Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. His Certificate in Financial Planning was issued by Florida State University.
Long has achieved the Accredited Credit Counselor and Accredited Financial Counselor certifications through the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education. Long originally achieved the Certified Credit Counselor designation through the National Institute for Financial Education.
In addition to years of nonprofit leadership, Long has been an innovator in the field of volunteer tax return preparation programs. He assists volunteer associations and nonprofit organizations who seek to integrate credit counseling and asset-building programs with free personal income tax preparation. His approach to using free credit reports as both an incentive and a screening tool for placement into asset-building programs has been shared with members of the National Community Tax Coalition, the EITC-Carolinas Initiative of MDC, Inc. and nonprofit groups across the Carolinas.
Long assists members of our armed forces in the Carolinas, Iowa, Rhode Island, Georgia and Germany with financial readiness. Please support our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors!
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."