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"Another precaution for that is if you could make a list of your card numbers and the merchants that you have that with, as soon as you recognize that the card is gone or that you have a transaction on your account that doesn't belong, get with the institution, whatever it is, the bank, the credit card company, to cancel the card right away."
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - What's usually the most wonderful time of the year for shoppers is now potentially scary. After the security scare for millions of target store customers, WHAG took a look at how to protect yourself from getting your personal information into the wrong hands.

After a nationwide security breach at target stores, millions of customers' credit and debit card information has become vulnerable. And with the holiday shopping season in full swing, Maryland Attorney General, Douglas Gansler is offering tips to help people stay protected.

"The holidays are probably the worst time of the year for consumers to worry about the safety of their credit or debit cards,” Gansler said in a statement.  “However, given the shopping volume, it's also a good time to take some simple steps to protect your money, especially if you shopped at target during the suspected time frame."

And local banks are offering advice as well. Susan Grove of Susquehanna Bank in Hagerstown said reviewing your bank statements regularly is just one safety net.

"Also when you're getting your receipts from the merchants, I would recommend that you draw a line through any blank spaces so that someone can't fill that in later. Cut up any old cards that you may have at home," Grove said.

Grove said if you think you're a victim of identity or credit card theft the first thing you should do is notify the credit card company.

"Another precaution for that is if you could make a list of your card numbers and the merchants that you have that with, as soon as you recognize that the card is gone or that you have a transaction on your account that doesn't belong, get with the institution, whatever it is, the bank, the credit card company, to cancel the card right away," she said.

And if you make your way to stores for those big after Christmas sales, officials advise shoppers be extra cautious of swiping their plastic.

“Keep them close by you, especially when you're plugging the pin into a machine, you know, that you're doing that as privately as you can. And match up your receipts with you transaction history, again, using your internet banker," said Grove.

And both Attorney General Gansler and bank officials said if you suspect your information has been stolen, of course, report it immediately.

The Attorney General's office said, under Maryland and federal law, you are entitled to two free copies of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies, and officials recommend you get your credit checked to ensure no suspicious activity is happening on your account.
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