Scammers are an opportunistic lot. The schemes and ploys to get your money and identity over the Internet are always evolving and responding to real-life occurrences. It’s part of why they’re so successful; the people behind them use every kind of trick they can to convince you they’re someone you can trust with your personal information.
It’s no surprise, then, that Target’s data breach and ensuing customer correspondence created a number of rip-off spoofs. Target’s data breach has left consumers feeling exposed, vulnerable and uncertain of whom to trust. Regardless of what appearance a potential scam takes, there are a few questions to ask yourself any time you receive an unsolicited email asking for your personal information.
• Do you recognize the email address? A lot of scammers make their money on their victims’ lack of attention to detail. It’s remarkably easy to get an email address like “target.co” which, on first glance, might appear to be genuine.
• Does this look like the kind of content a company like the one that’s contacting you would produce? Target is a multi-million dollar and multi-national corporation. The emails it sends to customers are going to be, at the very least, spell-checked, and probably use official logos, slogans, and other images wherever possible.
• Is the information that’s being requested necessary? Target did, in fact, offer a year of free credit monitoring to help people who may have been exposed to fraud by their data breach. In order to obtain it, you need to obtain an access code for a third party credit monitoring website.
• Does the offer sound too good to be true? This is what makes the Target scam so dangerous. The retailer did make a mistake with your data and is therefore offering something for nothing to make it right. Legitimate offers will never come with very short time frames.
• Do I need the service that Target is offering? If your credit union or card company has already issued you a new card, chances are you’re safe. You should keep an eye on your statement for the next several months to watch for unauthorized charges, and dispute them quickly. It’s natural to feel uncomfortable after finding out your personal data has landed in someone else’s hands. Don’t let that feeling trick you into making poor financial decisions. Practice the same online safety procedures you always do and be skeptical of everyone who wants your personal information. No one who wants to do legitimate business with you will be upset or angry if you want verification that they are who they say they are. Stay vigilant, and stay safe.
Information by Holly Bernal, CCUFC, Chief Operations Officer at Midland Credit Union, 2891 106th St., Urbandale, 515-278-1994.-