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In the wake of Target data breach, credit protection advice offered

On Dec. 28, shoppers approach Target department store in Aviation Mall, Queensbury. Nationally, Target suffered a breach of customers' credit card information that was the second largest in history. Those customers who used any credit or debit cards at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 have their credit information at risk of being stolen and misused. See article that details appropriate actions that can be taken to minimize problems.

On Dec. 28, shoppers approach Target department store in Aviation Mall, Queensbury. Nationally, Target suffered a breach of customers' credit card information that was the second largest in history. Those customers who used any credit or debit cards at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 have their credit information at risk of being stolen and misused. See article that details appropriate actions that can be taken to minimize problems. Photo by Thom Randall.

— • Consider a fraud alert with all three credit reporting agencies – The credit reporting agencies are required by law to flag your credit report for 90 days if you file a fraud alert. Then if someone tries to open a new account using your information you should be contacted for verification.

• Sign up for free credit report monitoring that’s offered, but make sure it’s legitimate. If Target offers a free monitoring program, take advantage of it.

• Keep monitoring your account: For those who have been exposed to a breach of data, it’s important to continue to examine account statements for two or more years. Unless there is clear proof that the data never fell into criminal hands, there is still a point of concern for the exposed consumer. Smart criminals understand that the data is “hot” for a year or so. It’s not unusual for crooks to wait to delay use of stolen data.

For all credit card holders:

• Beware of scammers who will likely use this highly public event to purport to be from Target, your bank or your credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem.

• Check before you click — “phishing” emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware designed to steal your identity. Don’t click on any email links or attachments unless you are absolutely certain the sender is authentic.

• Contact any affected financial companies – If your bank accounts, credit card accounts, or investment accounts are affected, immediately contact the companies and request that the account be closed and a new one opened.

Many advertisements claim to offer “free credit reports,” or “free credit monitoring.” Often, the service is free only if you sign up for another paid service. 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 (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.

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