PhotoIf you used a credit or debit card at Forever 21 between March and October, your card's information may have been compromised.

The fashion retailer, a fixture at malls around the country, says it is investigating a third party report of "unauthorized access" to stored data from debit and credit cards used at some of its stores.

At this point in the investigation, the company says it isn't known which stores may have been affected, but it is evident only certain point of sale systems were compromised.

Mark Cline, a vice president at business security service Netsurion, says hackers have found it easy and profitable to introduce malware to these point of sale terminals, stealing the card data and selling it on the dark web.

"With their millions of customers, large retailers like Forever 21 have typically been the hardest hit," Cline said in an email to ConsumerAffairs. "Companies must pay up to $172 per stolen record in clean-up costs. A major retailer just paid $18.5 million to address the impact of its 2013 hack, which resulted in 41 million stolen credit cards."

Businesses should harden card terminals

Cline says businesses should make it a priority to harden their IT and point of sale security, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching. Forever 21 said that some–but not all–of its point of sale terminals had been encrypted.

Forever 21 urges customers who used credit or debit cards at its stores to closely monitor their statements for unauthorized charges. If you find a charge you did not make, notify your bank or credit card company immediately to limit your liability.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that once your report the loss of a card, or evidence of unauthorized use, federal law protects you from further liability. The FTC says you should also follow up a phone call with a letter or email, including your account number, the date and time when you noticed your card was missing, and when you first reported the loss.

It is also a good idea to notify your bank or credit card company that you used the card at Forever 21 between March and October so they can issue a new card.

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