Target’s Credit Card Debacle: How Concerned Should You Be?

Forty million customers using a credit or debit card for purchases at U.S. Target stores between November 27th and December 15th, inclusive, have to concerned that a third party has their name, credit or debit card number, the card’s expiration date and the CVV (card verification value), used primarily for online purchases.

What Happened?

The exact details of what happened will not likely be shared with the public at large. We should all appreciate the dangers of providing an instruction manual to would-be hackers. Suffice it to say that either Target’s point of sale terminals (the gizmos the cashier uses to swipe credit cards) were hacked or the information was intercepted as it was being transmitted to the credit card processors. Either way, the bad guys have it.

How Concerned Should You Be?

While there has been a great deal of hype in the media on the subject, as a practical matter, the ultimate victims will be the credit card companies. As a cardholder, you do have the responsibility of notifying the card issuer of any fraudulent transactions on your account, but having done that, the law insulates you from any further responsibility for the transaction.

If you are a potential victim of this hack, your best course of action would be to advise your credit card company or companies that you may have been a victim and request new cards. New cards will render the ones useless. Changing your PIN is also a good idea.

Who Can Blame Them?

As a hacked cardholder, you are certainly going to be inconvenienced but the monetary burden will fall on Target and the credit card issuers. Target will be the “target” of multiple lawsuits from consumers, processors and credit card issuers. Credit card companies will have the staggering cost of replacing millions of compromised cards and will have to “eat” most fraudulent charges that are made as a result of the hack.

These are the real reasons the story received such hyperbolic and broad coverage. The credit card companies are trying to mitigate their losses via a media “scare” campaign.

Just be at peace with the fact that there are laws limiting the dollar amount of loss that you as a consumer must endure—ZERO, if you report the fact that your account may be among those compromised by the hack and you request that a new card be issued.

Avoid Credit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud of any kind is no joke and ultimately costs every consumer cold hard cash in the form of higher rates. This is my argument for helping the credit card companies with the problem … you end up saving money in terms of interest rate charges.

Here are a few of the most important things you can do:

1.) Review your credit card transactions online frequently and report anything suspicious or erroneous to the card issuer.

2.) If you shop online, take and save screen shots of the page confirming your purchase and save the corresponding order confirmation email.

3.) If you are buying online, make certain you understand the company’s privacy policy and how any personal information you disclose will be used. If you can’t find information pertaining to this on the website, buyer beware!

4.) Be sure you are dealing with a secure website for payment. Secure sites are identified by a “padlock” icon preceding the site’s URL.

5.) Be alert to phishing attempts. These are typically emails asking for personal or financial information. No bank, credit card issuer or financial institution will ever request sensitive information via an email. Emails like this should be deleted immediately and DO NOT click on any links within the email … ever!

6.) Be alert to the actions of anyone you pass your credit card to for processing. Wait staff, for example, have been known to scan the information from your card into a hand held device and then pass that scanned information along to organized credit card fraud rings which use the scanned information to generate a duplicate of your card. This practice is known as skimming.

7.) Keep your card receipts, no matter how insignificant the purchase.

Practicing these common sense tips will help you and help your credit card issuer. Helping the card issuer helps you in the long run by keeping interest rates lower than they might be otherwise.

If you were a victim of the Target hack, don’t lose a lot of sleep. You’ll be fine!

Were you a victim of the recent hacking incident? What were your experiences? Have you ever had your credit card information stolen?

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