How to protect yourself from fraud
The safest place on earth to shop with a credit card these days may be at a Target store.
The company is beefing up its digital security systems after thieves gained access in December to millions of customer credit card numbers and other information. Target has learned an expensive lesson, as hundreds of millions of dollars of company goodwill likely was destroyed because customers were placed at risk.
We may never know how the crooks stole the information from Target, or how many customers will suffer losses. We do know that it is a major blotch on Target’s reputation. CEO Gregg Steinhafel was humbled as he uttered the words any company leader dreads to utter: “I am truly sorry…” “…Sincerely regret… .” “Your trust is important to us…” “Thank you for your patience and loyalty…” That may not be enough for some shoppers to return.
Here are some tips provided by leading credit-security experts that will help you to avoid becoming a victim:
- If you use an ATM card, review your bank statement frequently online or by telephone, looking for suspicious activity.
- When shopping online, don’t allow web sites to store your credit card information.
- Review credit card activity frequently, either online or by phone, looking for charges you don’t recognize. Notify the card company immediately if any suspicious activity appears.
- Because thieves stole credit card as well as other personal information, they may be able to contact you by phone, text or email in an attempt to scam you. DO NOT respond to any contact that seeks personal information, including Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and PIN numbers. Delete texts and emails immediately from numbers or names you don’t recognize.
- Take advantage of Target’s offer of credit monitoring by signing up at creditmonitoring.target.com. Here, free for a year, you can get a credit report and receive alerts when a new account is opened in your name or if a change of address is initiated on any of your accounts –typical ways scammers try to steal money from you.
- Go to annualcreditreport.com to continue to obtain a free copy of your credit report each year from Transunion and Equifax (and Experian, when your free year expires), reviewing it for any accounts you don’t recognize. Get a credit report every four months.
- Be wary of calls or email scams that may appear to offer protection but are really trying to get personal information from you. Type in website addresses directly rather than clicking on links in emails or texts.
It’s unfortunate that we have to go through this hassle, but it’s the price paid for the convenience of a cashless society. It’s hoped that this will be a wake-up call for all merchants to work harder to earn the trust customers place in them.