Published December 20, 2013
If you're one of the 40 million Americans who used a credit, debit or ATM card at a Target store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, your account information -- including the card's security code -- may have been stolen. Merry Christmas!
The news certainly is disturbing. The period in question spans the busiest shopping season of the year -- from the day before Thanksgiving through Black Friday and into this past weekend. But if you employ some common sense and a bit of vigilance, you and your credit history and credit score should be fine.
First, do not panic. This does not appear to be a case of full-bore identity theft or even a comprehensive breach of all of your credit information. Given what is currently known, only the information on the card you used at Target has been compromised.
Still, don't minimize the risk. The attack might have touched nearly all 1,797 Target stores in the United State, and the bad guys got away with all of the information on the cards' magnetic stripes -- customer names, card numbers, expiration dates and even those three- or four-digit verification codes known as CVVs.
No federal law requires you to be personally notified of a data-related security breach. Many states do require notification, but it can take some time. For now, you're probably on your own.
Let's get to the heart of the matter. Here's what federal fraud specialists, consumer advocates and other experts say you should do:
Bottom line: If you apply modest vigilance, employ some common sense and respond quickly to any suspicious activity regarding your accounts, you should be fine.See related: Beware: Data breach dangers rise when you travel