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Tips for credit card users to protect against theft

12/27/2013, 6 a.m.
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler Office of the Attorney General

On December 20, 2013, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler offered tips and advice to Maryland consumers about the many ways they can protect themselves, especially if they believe their credit or debit cards were used to purchase items at Target stores between November 27 and December 15 of this year. Target announced on Thursday that an estimated 40 million credit and debit card accounts may be affected by a data breach which could lead to identity theft or actual theft from credit or bank accounts.

“The holidays are probably the worst time of the year for consumers to worry about the safety of their credit or debit cards,” said Attorney General Gansler. “However, given the shopping volume, it’s also a good time to take some simple steps to protect your money, especially if you shopped at Target during the suspected time frame.”

If you believe you have made a purchase at Target within the time of the suspected data breach:

·Debit and credit card users should check their accounts daily— online or by phone— for any recent unauthorized withdrawals or purchases

·Report any suspicious activity immediately to your financial institution; many credit card issuers offer protection against unauthorized use however, banks may not offer similar protections for debit cards and refunds may take some time

·Consider adding a fraud alert to your credit report file to help protect your credit information; a fraud alert will last for 90 days and will make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name— simply contact one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies listed below.

·If you find unauthorized purchases or withdrawals, consider calling or visiting your credit/debit card issuer to cancel your card and have them send or give you a new one.

·If you have further questions, contact Target directly at 866-852-8680 or visit the company's corporate website at https://corporate.target.com.

For all consumers who use a credit or debit card:

·Review every monthly statement for unauthorized withdrawals or purchases as soon as they arrive in the mail or online.

·Check your credit report to make sure stolen personal and financial information was not used to create credit in your name.

Under Maryland and federal law, you are entitled to two free copies of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

*Get a free copy of your credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228.

*https://www.creditkarma.com/ also provides free credit scores.

*You may contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies at:

*Equifax— 1-800-525-6285 or www.equifax.com

*Experian—1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com

*TransUnion— 1-800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com

Consumers may also contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General at 410-528-8662 or toll free at 888-742-0023. Consumers can file

a complaint at http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/complaint.htm or by mailing a hard copy of the complaint form found online, along with any supporting documents,

to 200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202.