Target offer not enough to protect from identity theft


Target’s offer of free credit monitoring to customers who shopped the retail giant may not be enough to prevent identity theft and could give shoppers a false sense of security according to Consumer Reports.

After a data breach in December exposed bank account information for millions of shoppers, Target offered customers “peace of mind” against that threat with free credit monitoring from Experian.

“The problem is that each of the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – can collect different information. So unless you’re checking all of them, you can miss someone trying to steal your identity and open new credit,” said Margot Gilman of Consumer Reports.

She suggests potential victims also consider having the three bureaus place a security freeze on their credit file.

Plenty of victims have already seen fraudulent charges show up on their accounts. Thieves could also use stolen information to get a victim’s Social Security number and open new accounts. If a debit card is compromised, thieves can raid the attached account, creating a slew of issues from bounced checks to extra fees even cash-flow problems.

“A security freeze is one of the best protections,” Gilman said. “It blocks access to your credit information and makes it more difficult for a crook to open a new account under your name.”

There is a down side to a credit freeze. It could trip up your chances of getting a new job or security clearance, getting a new credit card or even buying insurance. Any inquiry into your credit will be blocked. The freeze remains in place until you ask the bureaus to have it removed.

The best advice to routinely monitor all accounts and look for anything fraudulent. Being proactive is free, so there’s no need for expensive data-monitoring services.

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