Target Shoppers Should Probably Check Their Credit Card Accounts, Warns Attorney General

The retail chain had a security breach that compromised card data of 40 million customers.

Target announced early Thursday that a security breach had compromised the credit and debit card info of 40 million retail customers who shopped at one of its locations from November 27 to December 15. We’re a populous state with a fair number of Targets so there’s a good bet that some of those 40 million live in Massachusetts. Thus did Attorney General Martha Coakley announce that her office would be investigating the breach.

Coakley also released instructions for anyone who suspects their data may have been compromised. It’s probably worth a read even if you don’t do your Black Friday shopping at Target. After all, identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime. It’s an expensive thing to fall victim to—it costs Americans nearly twice as much as property crime.  And it frequently hits close to home. Earlier this month, hundreds of people who had attended conventions in Boston reported having their credit card data stolen and used used to purchase stuff. So with all that in mind, both Target itself and Coakley’s office have been warning Target shoppers of a few things. Their advice is largely the same:

1. “If you shopped at a Target Store using your credit or debit card between Nov. 27 and Dec.15, carefully review and monitor your credit card or other financial accounts for the next 12 to 24 months for any unauthorized activity and monitor your credit reports,” the AG’s office says. Any irregular activity ought to be reported to your credit card issuer ASAP.

2. Get your credit report. You’re entitled to a free one every year.

3. Place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report. You need only contact one of the credit bureaus because the law mandates that they inform the others. Once you do, creditors will have to contact you before opening a new account or increasing a credit limit. Plus, all three bureaus will send you a credit report for free. They are:

Equifax: Call (800) 525-6285, and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.

Experian: Call (888) 397-3742, and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.

TransUnion: Call (800) 680-7289, and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.”

Coakley’s office also offered advice for those who do find unexplained activity on their card accounts, which you can find here.

So there you go. Don’t let the real price of that 50 percent off cookware you snagged after Thanksgiving this year be years of untangling your credit history. So keep an eye on your accounts. Or just move to the Berkshires and pay for stuff only in BerkShares or something. But checking your credit report seems less drastic.