Though Target has yet to confirm if any of its seven Montana stores were affected in the recent credit card breach, the state Attorney General’s Office has issued a statement offering tips for consumer protection.
About 40 million U.S. customers using credit or debit cards as payment between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 are susceptible to fraudulent charges, but will not be held liable for any charges they did not make.
“Target is still trying to assess who has been affected,” said John Barnes, communications director at the Attorney General’s Office in Helena.
“We’re not sure if they will reach out to the individual states, the cardholder or the banks if they find a breach.”
A conference call this week between Target’s legal counsel and attorney general’s offices across the country alerted states to “phishing” emails and websites asking for personal information, such as Social Security numbers.
“This serves as a good reminder to never give out your Social Security number or date of birth in response to an email asking you to confirm account information,” Attorney General Tim Fox said.
The Montana Office of Consumer Protection issued these tips to protect cardholders:
• Never give bank or credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and know the business to be reputable.
• Never respond to emails or pop-up messages on websites asking you to confirm or verify account information, even if it looks official. Instead, call the customer service number listed on the company’s billing statement.
• Remove extra information from your checks. Information like your Social Security number and date of birth should be guarded.
• Shred or destroy any documents that contain personal identifying information before you dispose of them. Always shred prescriptions, receipts, bank deposit slips, pay stubs, expired credit cards, insurance policies and credit card applications.
• Review your bank and credit card statements as soon as you get them.
• Order a copy of your credit report once a year and check it carefully for fraudulent accounts. You are entitled to a free copy once every 12 months.
• Read and understand privacy and security policies before providing any personal information on websites. Shop online only if the site is secure.
• Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts, and avoid using easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name.
• Secure personal information in your home.
• Freeze your credit files with the three major credit bureaus so no one can access them without your permission.
The Office of Consumer Protection has issues scam alerts that a lot of people have signed up for, Barnes said.
Cardholders who find a fraudulent charge on their account should alert their bank or credit card company, and then contact the Office of Consumer Protection. The office’s website provides identity theft victims with information on the Identity Theft Passport Program, which puts a freeze on their file with the credit reporting agencies.
“As of right now, there haven’t been any cases, but we urge Montanans to keep monitoring their credit reports,” he said.
Dylan Chaffin is a journalism major at the University of Montana and a reporting intern for the Missoulian.