Credit card security breaches have been in the news frequently over the past months. What actions do you need to take to protect yourself?
Who has been affected? People who shopped and paid with any credit or debit card in the following stores may be impacted:
- Target retail stores between November 27- December 15, 2013
- Neiman Marcus retail stores during 2013
- Michaels Stores recently, no specific dates have been disclosed.
The largest credit card security breach incurred at Target. Keep in mind that any credit card that was used at these stores during the affected time periods could be impacted in the future. That could be a Target Card, a Neiman Marcus card, as well as American Express, Visa or MasterCard credit or debit cards.
What is the most important thing you can do now? The most important step an individual can take is to diligently monitor the affected credit card activity on a very regular basis. We recommend you review the card activity online, at least weekly. The stolen card data from this crime may be resold and activated at some point in the future. Your card could be impacted this week or months from now. At a minimum, carefully review your monthly statement.
What is the benefit of the free credit monitoring services that are being offered by these retailers?
Target and Neiman Marcus are offering one year of free credit monitoring services to affected customers. While we recommend you take advantage of this service, it does not really address the problems caused by the breach. The impact of the breach is someone may use your card data to make unauthorized purchases on your affected card account in the future. A credit monitoring service is not going to prevent or notify you of these unauthorized purchases.
Credit monitoring services are primarily to let you know if a new credit card has been opened in your name or for signs of identity theft. These are not the primary risks from these security breaches, based on current information.
How should you enroll in these free credit monitoring services?
Be careful and do not click on links from emails, unless you are very sure of their source. We recommend that you sign up for these services by going directly to the retailer’s website (by you typing the site address on your computer, not by clicking on links).
I registered for the credit monitoring offered by Target, even though I regularly shop there and was not notified by them of the credit monitoring service. To enroll in this service, go to: creditmonitoring.target.com. It is a two step process. After going to that web address, Target will email you an activation code sent from firstname.lastname@example.org. Next, at the credit monitoring website (Experian), you will need to provide personal information, such as your full name, address and social security number.
For information regarding Neiman Marcus, go to neimanmarcus.com/infosecurity, which will also offer credit monitoring service by Experian.
You do not need to pay extra money for a credit score, unless you want it. These free services provide you full reports of all of your credit card accounts and account histories, but a FICO score (or comparable score) cost extra. See our prior blog post on free credit reports, which you are entitled to annually, at Truly Free Credit Reports.
If you have any further questions, please contact us. We are here to assist you with various aspects of your financial life.