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On Your Side: Personal information compromised after Dollar Tree's computer is hacked

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News 12 at 6 O'Clock, December 14, 2009

NORTH AUGUSTA -- Welcome to the Dollar Tree, where everything's a dollar. But for some customers, the cost of shopping there could have been a lot more.

"Identity theft and everything," said Josephine Prescott. "You never know who's stealing your identity, so when I shop, basically, I use cash now."

Most of what you buy in this dollar tree costs just a few bucks, but credit cards are still used. That created a problem over the weekend. Employees say someone hacked into the store's computers, potentially exposing sensitive customer information.

North Augusta Public Safety says so far there have been no identity theft complaints from Dollar Tree customers. The store agreed, telling News 12 there were no victims from the incident.

But three years ago, hundreds of Dollar Tree customers in California and Oregon had their PINs stolen. Those numbers were used to withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars from ATMs.

This morning, business as usual. Credit and debit cards were being used again at the North Augusta store Monday morning.

"I know they say they usually don't get your information, but I don't trust it," Prescott added.

For Kelly Partridge, identity theft is in the back of her mind.

"I think about it a little bit," she said. "I mean I don't worry about it. I know it happens, I just hope it doesn't happen to me."

She only uses debit cards, hoping to avoid another kind of theft.

"I don't carry a lot of cash around," adds Partridge. "I'm afraid somebody might get into my wallet."

If you suspect someone stole your money out of your bank account or credit cards, you must tell your financial institution two business days after learning of the problem. This way, you'll lose only up to 50 dollars. If you wait longer than two days, your liability could be up to 500 dollars. Past 60 days, and you could lose everything.

In Georgia, you can get a credit freeze for free if you're an identity theft victim or over the age of 65. If you're under the age of 65 or not a victim, the freeze only costs three dollars. Call the credit bureaus to get a freeze. It costs three dollars to unfreeze your credit.