Target recently announced a massive data breach that affected its customers between November and December 2013.  The Target data breach notice can be read here.  According to USA Today, the security breach may have exposed as many as 40 million credit or debit card numbers.  Consumers need to know:

1.  Federal law limits liability for fraudulent charges. 

  • Credit Cards – Consumers may be responsible for unauthorized charges up to $50, and in some instances may not have any liability at all. 
  • Debit Cards – Under federal law, consumers may have more responsibility for unauthorized debit charges. If your card is lost or stolen, liability may be limited to $50 so long as the bank is notified within 2 days of the fraudulent charges. After 2 days has passes, but before 60 days, consumers may be responsible for $500.  If the consumer fails to report the fraudulent charges within 60 days after receipt of the bank statement, then liability is unlimited.  In other words, the consumer may be liable for ALL of the fraudulent charges. If the physical card is not lost or stolen, but fraudulent charges are made n the account, then the consumer may not be liable for any fraud charges so long as the consumer notifies the bank within 60 days after the bank statement is sent.

2.      Review credit and debit card statements for errors.

  • Review all charges
  • If you do not recognize a charge, discuss it with family members and your creditor or banker.
  • Dispute fraudulent charges to limit your liability!

3.       Review credit reports for errors.

  • Consumers have a right to a free credit report once every 12 months.  The reports may be ordered by mail, phone or online.  For more information on how to obtain your credit report click HERE.
  • Consumers have the right to dispute errors.  The disputes should be made by certified mail.  The dispute letters should plainly state what information is being disputed and why.  Click HERE for a sample credit report dispute letter.  Click HERE for addresses for the credit bureaus.
  • Don’t purchase credit monitoring.  Credit repair and credit monitoring expenses are unnecessary because consumers have the right to free reports and can dispute errors to the credit reporting agencies at no charge.  Also, monitoring services may not do what they said they would do.  For example, in 2010, LifeLock settled with the Federal Trade Commission relating to charges of false claims of identity theft protection services. 12 Million Reasons Not to Pay For Credit Monitoring.

4.       Add a “freeze” to your credit file.

  • A security freeze prohibits credit reporting agencies from selling your credit report.
  • If a creditor cannot obtain your credit report, then an identity thief probably won’t be able to open new credit accounts in your name.
  • Some states allow for a freeze under state law; in other states, consumers must pay a fee.
  • For more information about credit monitoring and security freezes click HERE.

5.       Contact a consumer protection lawyer.

Micah Adkins is a consumer protection lawyer.  Micah’s practice focuses on the representation of consumers who are victims of identity theft or have credit report errors.  With offices in Atlanta, Birmingham and Dallas, Micah is positioned to help consumers across the South. Micah also represents identity theft victims across the country.  Call or contact us online for a free consultation.

For a free case review call 24/7 1-800-263-9091