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Consumer Alert

After a data breach, be vigilant about card activity

With the theft of debit and credit card numbers from those who shopped at Shaw’s and Star Market stores this summer, it’s time again for consumers to get a handle what could go wrong when data thieves strike.

Hearing about so many data breaches over the past several months, from Target to eBay to Michaels, can get numbing. How many times can you reasonably prepare yourself to be ripped off in a given year? One more, apparently.

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As Target did for those whose information was believed to be stolen by data thieves, the parent company of Shaw’s and Star Market, AB Acquisition LLC, is offering free identity theft monitoring. The service is available for one year from the company All Clear ID (abacquisition.allclearid.com or 1-855-865-4449).

The offer is probably worth taking, although it is hardly a cure for what happened. Using such a service won’t stop someone from committing fraud with your card, or eliminate the need to check on your account activity. But it is another tool to alert you when things have gone further — and crooks are opening accounts using your credit history.

What the crooks got in this theft was significant — everything they would need to run up charges on your accounts: credit and debit card numbers, names on the cards, expiration dates, and even the security codes on the card backs. The company said transactions between June 22 and July 17 were affected.

If you’re worried, one way to stop this in its tracks is to replace any card you used at Shaw’s or Star Market during that period. You could also contact one of the credit reporting agencies and place a fraud alert, which would create a hurdle for anyone trying to access your credit. Otherwise, keep a close eye on card activity, and immediately report any charge that wasn’t made by you or your family.

Also, take advantage of free credit history reports to which you are entitled (one each year from Experian, Equifax,and TransUnion, through the official website AnnualCreditReport.com) to see if there is any unusual activity. Be wary if the firms attempt to sell you additional services.

It’s OK to be shocked and angry about all these thefts. But it’s not smart to ignore them.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and can be reached at consumernews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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