Close any cards you used at Target during the breach

Dear Liz: My debit card was part of the recent Target data breach (my credit union called me). I’ve read articles telling me to pull my credit reports. Here’s the thing: I already requested two of my three free credit reports in early December. When I read about the Target incident, I requested the third one. So now, if I pull a credit report, I’d have to pay for it. I’m very concerned about this, as my finances are tight.

Answer: The information that was stolen in the Target breach — and immediately put up for sale on black-market sites — is not the kind of personal information that’s typically needed to open new accounts, said John Ulzheimer, credit expert for So buying your credit reports or investing in credit monitoring, which is how you would spot new account fraud, isn’t strictly necessary, he said.

The information that was stolen can be used in what’s known as “account takeover,” which means the bad guys can take over existing accounts and make fraudulent charges. In the case of a debit card, that means they can drain your bank account. With a credit card, you wouldn’t have to pay the fraudulent transactions, but dealing with them could still be a hassle.

Either way, you would be smart to close any debit or credit card used at Target between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15, the time of the breach, and ask for a replacement, Ulzheimer said.


  1. I thought I read somewhere that Target is offering free credit monitoring to everyone affected by the breach. They certainly SHOULD…

    • Liz Weston says

      Yes, you can request an activation code from However, sometimes signing up for free credit monitoring after a breach involves giving up your rights to sue or participate in a class action settlement. I can’t tell from Target or Experian’s sites if that’s the case here…I’ll take a look at the terms and conditions when I get my code.

  2. I certainly agree with the advice to close the debit card. Would that be to close the actual account or just ask for a new card, associated with the same checking account? I used a credit card in Target.Barclay proactively issued me another credit card, although I had not seen anything suspicious.

    • Liz Weston says

      You don’t need to close the actual account, but you want a card with a different number.

  3. Sue Osborn says

    What if the only debit card I use is the Target RED card. Should we cancel that? If so, I think Target should have cancelled and reissued all of those.

  4. I didn’t have to do anything – my credit union contacted me and told me they’re sending me a new card because I shopped at Target during that time period. I love my credit union!

  5. Dan Haueter says

    I got the activation code and signed up for the free monitoring. What was provided is the very basic Experian credit monitoring service. You cannot get your credit score unless you pay, and when I tried to look at the report, it kept bouncing me back to the logon page. It looks pretty useless to me.

    • Liz Weston says

      The credit score they’re trying to sell you isn’t one that’s used by lenders in any case. If you want credit monitoring with a FICO, you’d have to pay for it at

  6. John Smith says

    What if you paid by check? They do an electronic withdrawal right there over their system.