Published December 19, 2013
| Consumer Reports
If you used your credit or debit card for holiday shopping between November 27 and December 15 this year at Target, the $73 billion-a-year (revenues) retailing giant, that big red bullseye is now painted on your checking or revolving credit account.
Although it's unlikely that victims will be liable for any losses related to theft of funds from their accounts related to this incident--thanks to federal and industry consumer protections and liability limits--you should take steps now to avoid the hassles associated with identity theft.
Crooks gained unauthorized access to credit and debit card payment data, including the cardholder's name, account number, expiration date, and the three-digit "CVV" security code on the back of the card, Target announced today. The retailer's press release didn't indicate how many consumer were exposed, but given that the theft took place at the height of the holiday shopping season, millions are likely affected. We could not reach Target's press office, whose phones kept hanging up while ringing or shortly after the options menu answered.
As we reported last February, a whopping 22.5 percent of consumers who received notice of a security breach, like the one that occurred at Target, subsequently became victims of identity theft, according to a survey of 5,000 consumers by Javelin Strategy and Research, a California consulting firm that has studied this crime for more than 10 years.
That's almost eight times the 2.9 percent ID fraud rate for consumers who hadn't received a breach notice. So you should take this threat seriously, rather than ignore it, which is the typical consumer reaction.
Don't get fleeced by identity theft proptection services, either. Learn how they try to exploit your fear and how you can protect yourself for a low less in our report, Don't get taken guarding your ID.
However, while the Target security breach will be top of the news today, there's no need for you to panic. Federal consumer protection laws and voluntary lending industry practices generally protect you from significant--or any--out-of-pocket dollar losses.
So the biggest threat to consumers is the hassle of monitoring your accounts for fraud, reporting any theft, and replacing compromised payment cards.
If you used a payment card at Target from November 27 to Deember 15, here's what you should do right now to slam the door on the Target ID theives:
Copyright © 2005-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.