Target confirmed Thursday that there was a massive security breach at its stores, and consumer advocates say millions of people need to take immediate action.
Online shoppers are not affected, but if you shopped at a Target store during the first half of the holiday season, thieves were essentially able to get access to all the information stored in the black strip on the back of your card - your name, your card number, your expiration date, and your security code.
Everything they need to make a replica.
If you shopped at Target any time from November 27 – Black Friday – until December 15, then you should consider yourself a victim according to the Better Business Bureau's Tom Bartholomy.
"You know some bad guys got your information," he says. "So you have to approach it from that. They have it."
But you also know exactly what they have and what they don't…just the info listed on your card…so you also know their next step.
"We know exactly what they're going to do with it," Bartholomy says. "They're going to copy cards, and they're going to go out there and use that card in any way they possibly can."
But you don't know when they're going to do it. They may bide their time, waiting months or even years, until Target customers have forgotten all about the warnings.
So what Bartholomy says you should do now: "I would contact my bank," he says. "I would contact my credit card company – whichever one you used, and say look, I've been a victim of this. I don't feel comfortable. I want a new account."
And later, keep checking your credit score, in case the thieves try to use your information in the future.
"You can put a fraud alert on your credit report."
Brett and Kristen Malanson weren't too worried Thursday. They bought a cartful at Target.
"I'm not worried because I have credit card fraud protection," Brett says. "It's just sad that there's people out there in the world that make it difficult for other people."
Brett and Kristen did shop at a Target store in Charlotte earlier this month – but as they mentioned, they're protected. So are you if you shopped with a credit card. Federal law requires credit card companies to cover theft when it's proven.
If you used a debit card, that protection isn't mandated. Even so, most banks will work with you on a documented case like this. Bartholomy says you should call your lender now to let them know you're involved.