BY JOHN H. WALKER
Persons who shopped at a Target store between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and used either a debit or credit card to pay for their purchase are being reminded to pay close attention to their accounts as they may be receiving their first statements since the company acknowledged a huge data security breach.
Target says more than 1 million North Carolina customers were among the approximately 40 million credit and debit card accounts affected by the second-largest data security breach in American retail history. The breach occurred only at U.S. stores and not online or in Canadian stores.
The breach means records containing personal information, such as Social Security numbers or credit card or bank account numbers, were accessed improperly.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper says, “Just because your information was part of a security breach doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll become a victim of fraud or identity theft, but it does put you at greater risk.”
He cautioned persons to protect themselves by checking their credit and debit card accounts and reporting suspicious charges to your bank or credit card company immediately. He added that persons should request a new card with a different number and change any PINs or passwords for the affected account.
Cooper said the second step persons should take is to check their credit reports.
“Once criminals have your personal information, they may use it to open new accounts in your name. Everyone is allowed a free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus. Breach victims can also request a fraud alert from one of credit bureaus, and should consider a security freeze for maximum protection.”
Cooper said the breach is a call to be careful, and a reminder that consumers should constantly monitor information.
"Your information may be out there and you not even know it, maybe a data breach that a company doesn't even know about, or someone may have even gone into your trash can and stolen information to commit identity theft.”
Target president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel cautioned customers, “Even if you shopped at Target during this time frame, it doesn’t mean you are a victim of fraud. In fact, in other similar situations, there are typically low levels of actual fraud.
“There is no indication that PIN numbers have been compromised on affected bank issued PIN debit cards or Target debit cards. Someone cannot visit an ATM with a fraudulent debit card and withdraw cash.
“You will not be responsible for fraudulent charges — either your bank or Target have that responsibility.”
Steinhafel said Target would offer free credit monitoring services for everyone impacted.