Target credit monitoring not enough, experts say

It was the data breach that shook the retail world. When Target Corp. announced in December that 110 million of its customers payment and personal records had been breached, the news was unsettling both because Target is such an iconic brand and because the breach was so invasive.
Target really demonstrated there are now three certainties in life: death, taxes and breaches, said Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911, a company that provides identity-theft recovery and other services.
Target certainly isnt the only retailer to have been hit Michaels, Neiman Marcus and Sally Beauty Supply recently also reported exposure of customer data but its definitely among the biggest ever.
According to Minneapolis-based Target, about 40 million customers debit- and credit-card information was exposed, as well as 70 million customers phone numbers, mail and email addresses.
In the aftermath, thousands of Americans had their credit or debit cards canceled by banks and credit unions.
Target has been busily doing damage control, issuing major apologies, testifying before Congress and contributing $5 million to a nationwide cybersecurity campaign. The companys profits have plunged as wary consumers stayed away, and Target still faces dozens of lawsuits by banks and others.
Perhaps most important, Target has been working to quell anxieties and rebuild the confidence of its shoppers. In its biggest mea culpa, the company offered customers free credit monitoring for a year but the deadline to sign up was last Wednesday.
The free service was not limited to customers who shopped during the apparent data breach period, which Target initially identified as between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Instead, the free credit monitoring was open to anyone who shopped at Target. Ever.
Target said it does not have specific numbers on how many customers have signed up, but the offer has been very well-received by Targets guests, said company spokeswoman Van Nevel.
Targets credit monitoring is good for 12 months; after that, consumers can choose whether to continue the service on a paid basis.
But for those who have signed up, its no guarantee that cybercrooks wont steal your identity and wreak financial havoc in other ways, such as using stolen credit- or debt-card info to siphon money from your accounts.
The service Target is giving away only monitors one of your three credit reports, which is like locking one of the three doors to your house, said John Ulzheimer, an identity-theft and credit-reporting expert who writes for and
Credit monitoring is effective only when someone is using your personal information to apply for new accounts, such as car loans or credit cards, Ulzheimer said. And in that case, the consumer better hope the lender pulls their Experian credit report or the free credit-monitoring service wont set off any alarms.
Targets free credit monitoring applies only to a consumers Experian credit reports, not those of Equifax or TransUnion, noted Ulzheimer, who previously worked for Equifax.
Levin, the identity-theft expert, said there are lots of other tools for consumers to protect themselves. Among them:
bull; Get free copies of your credit reports once a year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) by going to or calling 1-877-322-8228.
bull; Visit sites where you can obtain a free credit score, such as,, or
bull; Check your bank and credit-card accounts online routinely, daily if possible. It only takes a few minutes but is an easy way to spot fraudulent charges.
bull; Ask your bank or credit union about transactional monitoring, where they notify you by email or text whenever a transaction is unusual or occurs above a certain amount. Chase and many other credit-card issuers already do this automatically.
In general, if someone calls, texts or sends you an email asking you to do anything (related to your financial life), hang up, Levin said. If someone communicates with you out of the blue, claiming to be a retailer, the IRS or some other (agency), thats when you have to be in control.
Call the phone number on the back of your credit card or brokerage statement. Online, type in the URL yourself and go directly to the website of the institution thats purportedly contacting you.
Never click on unfamiliar links in emails.
And never carry your Social Security card with you.
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