Whether you shopped at Target stores during the massive data breach or not, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs is urging all state residents who shop there to take advantage of one year of free credit monitoring now being offered by the retailer.

A customer signs a credit card statement next to a scanner in a Target store (Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

"Tens of millions of people may have been affected by this data breach and we're hearing reports that there may be other breaches at other large retailers that operate nationally," said Eric Kanefsky, state DCA director. "Target is offering the free credit monitoring to everybody whether they were directly affected or not. Given this breach and the possibility of other breaches, we believe everyone should sign up.

Kanefsky said this is not "a sure stopgap measure," but rather an important step available to customers.

Beginning this week, consumers can register for free credit monitoring at creditmonitoring.target.com.  It will be offered through Experian's ProtectMyID, which provides a copy of a credit report, daily credit monitoring, identity theft insurance (except where prohibited by law) and access to personalized assistance from a fraud resolution agent.

Target has provided the following information for consumers seeking to take advantage of this program:

  • Consumers who shopped in U.S. stores may request an activation code by entering their name and email address at creditmonitoring.target.com before April 23, 2014.
  • Consumers will then receive an email from Target within one to five days that will include the unique activation code and instructions on how to register the code with ProtectMyID.
  • Consumers will have until April 30, 2014 to register with ProtectMyID.
  • Emails collected during the process of creating activation codes will only be used for the purpose of sending an activation code to enroll in free credit monitoring.

Consumers with questions are encouraged to visit target.com/databreach or to contact Target directly at 866-852-8680. Anyone who notices anything suspicious is asked to contact the Federal Trade Commission or the local police.

In the meantime, consumers are being urged to be on heightened alert in monitoring credit activity. Every few days or so, consumers should go online and look at credit and debit activity to make sure there is nothing suspicious in there. Kanefsky said his office is also urging people to keep an eye out for solicited offers for help.

"If someone is saying they can help in the wake of this breach or if someone is soliciting you for personal information, don't turn over that information," Kanefsky said. "Whenever you get an unsolicited email, phone call, or even someone dropping by your place of business, do your own work and be vigilant in finding out whether the person is legitimate."

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.