Reports of a recent data breach at Target are a reminder that consumers should monitor financial accounts carefully and check credit reports regularly to prevent fraud, advises the better Business Bureau serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa..
In a statement posted at https://corporate.target.com/, Target said unauthorized access to Target payment card data may have affected customers who made credit or debit card purchases at the stores from Nov. 27 to Dec. 15. The company has hired a forensics firm to investigate the release and says it is working closely with authorities and financial institutions to prevent further fraud.
Although most credit card companies don’t charge cardholders for fraudulent use of their accounts, customers still need to check their accounts for fraud that wasn’t found by a card issuer’s computers. You should look at transactions on the account to make sure you actually made the purchases listed. If you see suspicious activity, report it to your financial institutions immediately.
Most card issuers allow cardholders to check their accounts online. It’s not really necessary to wait for a monthly statement. Some authorities recommend that consumers switch to electronic delivery of credit card statements, especially if your mailbox isn’t locked.
Another important step is checking your credit report at least once a year.
“Pulling your credit report on a regular basis is a smart way for consumers to stay on top of their financial health,” said Jim Hegarty, BBB president and CEO. “The reports can help you determine whether anyone has stolen your identity or tried to commit fraud.”
Many advertisements on television or online claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores” or “free credit monitoring.” Often, the service is free only if you sign up for another service that isn’t free. In some cases, advertisers may be attempting to steal your identity or sign you up for something that results in a monthly fee charged to a credit card.
The best way to check your report is through AnnualCreditReport.com, a service sponsored by the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax and Transunion. The service is available online or by calling 1-877-322-8228, and it allows consumers to get a free report from each agency once a year. Consumers also may go to the website and download a request form that can be mailed to an address in Atlanta. Mailed reports normally arrive within two or three weeks.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers: