Banks on alert after Target credit card breach

  • Robert Olsten of Santa Rosa walks finishes some Christmas shopping at the Target along Santa Rosa Avenue on Thursday, December 19, 2013. Olsten said he was aware of that hackers recently stole debit and credit card information from Target Corp and decided to use a check to pay for his purchases today. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

"I wrote them a check!" said 91-year-old Robert Olsten as he left the store with about $50 worth of Christmas gifts.

Olsten said he'd heard the story on the radio Thursday morning and decided against putting his purchases on his Discover card as he would have.

Victoria Jones took the opposite approach. The 42-year-old Santa Rosa resident chose to put her cart-load of purchases on a credit card instead of her debit card, reasoning it was smarter to let the credit card company bear the risk instead of the hard-earned cash in her checking account.

"I went to swipe my debit card and went, 'Wait a minute!'" Jones said.

She said she knows she shopped at the store during the period in question, and will now keep an eye out for any unusual activity on her account.

As word of the theft spread, banking and credit union officials on the North Coast urged cardholders to monitor their accounts and report any suspicious activity. They assured customers they wouldn't be charged for any unauthorized transactions.

"They really shouldn't panic at this point," said Robin McKenzie, spokeswoman for Redwood Credit Union. "It's important to stay calm and realize they are not responsible for any fraudulent activity. They are covered."

McKenzie said the institution received about 300 calls from its 230,000 members expressing concern. But so far, none have reported losses, she said.

The credit union was not advising people who shopped at Target during the period to apply for new cards.

Brad Hunter, senior vice president of Exchange Bank, said he had not heard of any customers falling victim either. But he said as many as 4,000 of the 50,000 people who had bank debit cards could have shopped at Target during the busy holiday season.

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