By Jim Hagerty
Less than a month after Target announced that its holiday credit card breach affected 40 million customers, the company revealed Friday, Jan. 10, that as many as 110 million cardholders were robbed of personal information during the hack.
Target maintains that the information boosted form its point-of-sale machines is encrypted and is next to impossible to decode. But, officials now say millions of online shoppers were also affected.
That means e-mail addresses, phone numbers, names and home addresses were stolen during the Nov. 27-Dec. 15, 2013 breach.
The company has not announced a cause of the breach, other than it is one of the largest cases of merchant theft in history.
As Target works with law enforcement to track down the hackers, local officials are urging customers to take added precautions against identity theft.
“With the theft of personal information such e-mail addresses, the threat of identity theft becomes even greater,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Better Business Bureau. “Not only do those who may have been impacted by the original breach need to be concerned that their bank and credit card accounts may be compromised, they now must be prepared to protect their identities as well.”
Although no cases of identity theft have been reported since the massive breach, Horton said the incident has created abreeding ground for criminals and a variety of related scams.
Horton said Target Christmas shoppers should expect to receive fraudulent calls, fake e-mails, letters–all from criminals–in the wake of the breach. Each will be an attempt to steal personal information such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers.
Following are recommendations by the Better Business Bureau to protect cardholders from becoming victims of identity theft.
Be on your guard:
—If you shopped at Target, expect to get fake phone calls, emails and letters in the mail, because there is a good chance scammers can contact you.
—Never give out personal information.
—If a person calls and claims to be with your bank and says you’ve been affected by the hack, hang up.
—Call bank number on credit card directly.
—If you receive an e-mail from someone who claims to be from Target, don’t click on links. Go to Target.com/databreach instead. This website gives all the correct information.
Contact financial institutions first:
—Don’t wait for your bank to contact you.
—Let the bank know you’ve shopped at Target and are at risk. You might get a new card or PIN number.
—Check your credit report online.
—Check bank and credit card statements for charges you don’t recognize.
Sign up for fraud monitoring:
—Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Use this to your advantage.
—Watch websites you use. If criminals have your contact information they can pose as you on websites with your credit card information.
—Contact the website directly if you have any concerns.
“Identity theft is still the fastest growing white collar crime,” Horton added. “The BBB is here for consumers not only when they need help finding a trustworthy business, and also to help protect their identity.”
Posted Jan. 10, 2014