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After a data theft, scrutinize all accounts

Q. Who's affected?

A. Potentially, any customer who has used a credit card, debit card, or check at a store operated by TJX, including T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and A.J. Wright stores in the United States, including Puerto Rico; Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada; and perhaps Bob's Stores in the United States and T.K. Maxx stores in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Data affected may have involved transactions during 2003, and between mid-May and December of 2006.

Q. What should I do if I'm affected?

A. TJX has set up hot lines to answer customer questions:

1-866-484-6978 in the United States, 1-866-903-1408 in Canada, and 0800-77-90-15 in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Q. What can I do to prevent credit and debit card fraud?

A. Review your credit card statements. If you suspect fraudulent purchases, notify your credit or debit card company immediately. Check to see if your card offers fraud protection, which would mean you're not responsible for fraudulent charges.

You should also notify one of the three credit-reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. You'll be able to put a "fraud alert" on your file for 90 days. You need to call only one of the agencies; when you request a fraud alert from one, it notifies the other two.

Your credit file would then include a statement that says you may be a victim of fraud and that creditors should telephone you before extending credit.

For more information, go to equifax.com, experian.com/fraud, or transunion.com.

The Federal Trade Commission also provides tips at ftc.gov, as does the website for the consumer advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at privacyrights.org.

Q. Should I check my credit?

A. It doesn't hurt. Under federal law, you are entitled to a free annual credit report. You can order by telephone, 877-322-8228, or online at annualcreditreport.com. When you get your report, look for any credit accounts that aren't yours, and review any inquiries into your credit.

SOURCES: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission

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