Protecting yourself and your finances over the holidays - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Protecting yourself and your finances over the holidays

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If you've shopped at Target since Black Friday, your credit card information might have been stolen. Between November 27th and December 15th, Target says 40 million credit and debit card accounts for in-store shoppers were compromised.

Hackers reportedly stole data from those magnetic strips on the back of credit cards. The Secret Service is investigating.

According to tech experts, if you're affected, there's no need to panic.

"The banks and card brands offer consumers a great deal of protection. So while you may be without a credit card for a few days and have a lot of paperwork to deal with, at the end of the day you'll be taken care of."

There are some ways to avoid identity theft altogether.

According to the Better Business Bureau, when it comes to personal and financial information, we can never be too careful.

"Sales are higher than any other time of the year so they know there's a lot of data and information, prime time of year, not terribly surprised, we just have to be extra diligent in securing our identity during this time," SD Better Business Bureau branch manager Jessie Schmidt said.

Securing your identity can be done easily by keeping your personal information private. To avoid becoming a victim of fraud, one helpful tip: use your credit card rather than debit.

"That's essentially a big thing because to go back and get some of those things corrected takes a lot of time, energy and it takes a long time to recapture your identity, it can reek havoc on your life long term," Michael Haugen said.

That's exactly what consumers say they want to avoid.

"The smartest people in the world are taking advantage of those who aren't the smartest. We're really trying to get after them," Haskell Bee said.

Nearly 20,000 calls reporting fraud or scams have hit the South Dakota Attorney General's office this year. This most recent Target breach is something Attorney General Marty Jackley is watching closely.

"At the time being, it's another reminder to guard your information carefully. Don't give out social security information, don't give out bank information, Medicare or Medicaid information," Marty Jackley said.

"It's happening frequently, it will continue to happen. It's a lucrative business to those who steal that information. It's out there on the black market and you can buy it," Schmidt said.

Other things to keep in mind, especially around the holidays:

- Monitor bank and credit card statements as often as possible

- Shred any unwanted documents containing important information

- Conduct a free check of your credit score online every four months

To report fraud or scams to the state, you may call 1-800-300-1986 from any South Dakota phone number.

Here are a couple of resources helpful for consumers, from Lutheran Social Services:

  1. www.annualcreditreport.com – it is set mandated by federal law to provide all consumers in the U.S. with free annual credit reports.
  2. www.optoutprescreen.com – also mandated by federal law, this site allows consumers to opt-out of pre-screened credit offers (for free!)
  3. Also, tips from the FTC:
    1. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports
    2. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
    3. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0279-extended-fraud-alerts-and-credit-freezes

Lutheran Social Services offers Credit Report Consultations and can work with folks to remedy any damage caused by identity thieves. A Credit Report Consultation with our office is $35. Here is a link for more info:

http://www.lsssd.org/financial_services/consumer/title/credit-report-consultation.

 

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