Business

Data breaches are scary, but don’t panic

One consumer credit authority said a putting “freeze” on your credit reports restricts access to your credit file and prevents the unauthorized opening of new accounts.
One consumer credit authority said a putting “freeze” on your credit reports restricts access to your credit file and prevents the unauthorized opening of new accounts. Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press/File 2013

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It’s always upsetting when you are notified by a business, whether it is a credit card issuer or a retailer, that your personal or financial information may have been stolen in a data breach. The recent incident at Target stores, one of the largest corporate breaches in recent years, affected millions of people.

“We want people to react, but not panic,” said Eva Velasquez, chief executive of the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides free assistance to consumers.

After initially reporting that credit or debit card information from about 40 million shoppers was stolen from late November to mid-December in a hacking of Target’s in-store network, the company said this month that systems housing personal data on 70 million customers (with some overlap with the first group) also had been compromised. Information on the second group, which includes people who may not have shopped at Target recently, included street addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.

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