By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office cautions consumers and offers advice following the recent data breach at Target stores across the country.
According to a press release from the Office of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, unauthorized access of as many as 40 million of the store’s credit and debit card accounts may have occurred between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. The breach didn’t involve orders placed on Target’s website.
Beth Ryan, communications director for the attorney general’s office, encouraged people to check their bank and credit card statements and balances regularly to see if there are any purchases that don’t look familiar.
She said consumers may want to get a free credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion — if they haven’t done so within the last year. This will allow individuals to review their credit activity and ensure that no new cards or accounts have been opened in their name.
If a consumer sees a problem, they should contact Target at 1-866-852-8680, the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338, and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-368-8808.
“Basically this is a situation that affected almost every single Target store in the country,” Ryan said. “It’s just a very complicated situation for both consumers and the retailer. The best thing for consumers to do is be proactive and make sure that they’re being responsible and keeping track of their accounts and purchases that they make, and keeping an eye to make sure that there aren’t any unauthorized purchases.”
She said the attorney general’s office has been getting some telephone calls from concerned consumers about the Target data breach.
Target also recently held a meeting with attorney generals from around the nation to let them know what’s going on, what the company is trying to do, and to establish an open line of communication. Representatives from the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office were part of the call, Ryan said.
“We can confirm that we are actively partnering with the United States Secret Service and the Department of Justice on the ongoing investigation into the malware that affected Target’s point-of-sale system in our U.S. stores,” Target said in a news release. “Due to the nature of the investigation, the Secret Service has asked not to share many of the details of the forensics and investigation.”
Since the Target incident, some other related identity theft and credit card scams have originated, the state attorney general’s office reported.
“Scammers often use uncertainty and confusion as a time to prey on vulnerable consumers,” Morrisey said in a release. “Consumers may receive calls, texts or emails from someone claiming to be from Target asking for Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information. These scams attempt to offer ‘protection’ but instead try to steal personal information from consumers. Do not give this information.”
Target confirmed that it will not ask customers to provide their Social Security numbers or PIN numbers.
The company stated that consumers will not be held responsible for any unauthorized expenses. Target is offering free fraud monitoring for people who have been impacted.
“We remain confident that PIN numbers are safe and secure,” the company reported on Dec. 27.
Persons can visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 for more information about free credit reports.
Email Jessica Borders at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.