Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

Target Breach FAQ

By Liz Crenshaw and Katie Roberts
|  Friday, Jan 17, 2014  |  Updated 6:13 PM EDT
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Target Breach FAQ

NBC 5 News

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Questions have been pouring in to our mailbox regarding the Target data breach. Here are your most frequently asked questions, answered.

Target is using one credit bureau, Experian, for its free credit monitoring service-- does this mean you also need to get a copy of your credit reports from Equifax and TransUnion as well?

The Federal Trade Commission says, it's really up to you. All three nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) get their information from different sources, so what you get from one company may not be the same information in the other two reports. Remember: you can get a free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus once a year. The only government-authorized place to get that report is www.annualcreditreport.com.

Experian requires that you give your social security number to enroll. Is this a good idea?

Experian says it asks for personal information, such as your social security number, so that your identity can be verified during the registration process. Since Experian is a credit bureau, it does already have your social security number on file. Therefore, providing it for identity verification shouldn't make you alarmed. Experian says asking for your social security number is strictly a security measure to ensure no one else has access to your information.

Why is Experian asking me to pay for a credit score or to buy additional reports?

Target says that it will pay for a free copy of your Experian credit report, plus daily credit monitoring for one year. Any other products or services on Experian's website, such as a copy of your credit score, you'll have to pay for. It's not necessary to give Experian any payment information unless you want to purchase something extra.

With more than 100 *million* people's identities at risk... What should people be looking out for?

Target says that the primary risk from this security breach is increased exposure to consumer scams, such as phishing and web scams. Of course, there is also an increased risk of identity theft and having your credit or debit card compromised. The best way to protect yourself: monitor your bank statements, your credit card statements and your credit reports.

Are the protections against fraud for both credit and debit cards the same?

The Federal Trade Commission says the truth is, the protections are NOT the same. You are  covered if fraud hits your credit card. All liability tops out at $50.00 but most often, consumers pay nothing if someone uses their card fraudulently. If fraud hits your debit card, on the other hand, act fast if you don't want to be held responsible. Your liability for fraudulent use of your debit card goes up the longer it takes you to inform your bank of an unauthorized charge in your account. If you wait two days, you will be responsible for 50 dollars, then 500 dollars after three days, then the entire amount if you let more than two months go by.

If you are concerned about your card getting compromised, what happens if your card gets denied while you're checking out at a store?

The good news: the chances that your card will be denied while you're checking out can happen, but is unlikely. That's because most big credit card issuers will warn you if they have spotted unauthorized charges and are shutting down your card.  By the way, if you're a Citibank customer,  Citibank told News4 that it will be re-issuing debit cards of affected customers in the coming weeks. In the off chance that your card is denied, call your bank right away.

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