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.
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.
certainly isn’t the only retailer to have been hit —
Michaels, Neiman Marcus and most recently Sally Beauty
Supply have reported exposure of customer data — but
it’s 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
the aftermath, thousands of Americans had their credit
or debit cards canceled by banks and credit unions.
has been busily doing damage control, issuing major
apologies, testifying before Congress and contributing
$5 million to a nationwide cybersecurity campaign. The
company’s profits have plunged as wary consumers
stayed away and Target still faces dozens of lawsuits by
banks and others.
most importantly, Target has been working to quell
anxieties and rebuild the confidence of its shoppers. In
its biggest mea culpa, the company has offered Target
customers free credit monitoring for a year. But the
deadline is fast approaching. Consumers have until April
23 to get signed up for the free offer.
understands some guests are nervous about the impact the
recent data breach may have on them. We are offering
this product in order to ease all guest concerns and
provide peace of mind," said Target spokeswoman
Sarah Van Nevel, in an email.
free service is not limited to customers who shopped
during the apparent data breach period, which Target
initially identified as between Nov. 27 and December 15.
Instead, the free credit monitoring is open to
"anyone who shopped at Target." Ever.
about 1,800 U.S. stores and millions of customers, the
potential number of sign-ups is enormous. Target said it
does not have specific numbers on how many customers
have signed up so far, but the offer "has been very
well-received by Target’s guests," said company
spokeswoman Van Nevel.
you share a credit card with a spouse or partner, both
can sign up individually for free credit monitoring,
which is provided by ProtectMyID, a subsidiary of
Experian, one of the country’s three main credit
reporting bureaus. You’ll get an alert any time there’s
a change to your credit report, including newly opened
accounts, new credit inquiries and new negative
information, such as payment delinquencies. The offer
free copy of your credit report by Experian.
theft help. If confirmed as a victim of identity theft,
you’re assigned a "fraud resolution agent"
to walk you through the resolution process and answer
theft insurance: Victims are covered for certain costs,
such as lost wages, private investigator fees and
unauthorized electronic fund transfers.
credit monitoring is good for 12 months; after that,
consumers can choose whether to continue the service on
a paid basis.
apply, go to http://
by April 23. You’ll be given an authorization code,
which you type in at ProtectMyID.com. The sign-up must
be completed before April 30. To ensure the credit
monitoring goes to the correct account, you’ll be
asked to provide your name and Social Security number.
Target says it will not have access to any customers’
Social Security numbers.
for those who sign up, it’s no guarantee that
cybercrooks won’t steal your identity and wreak
financial havoc in other ways, such as using stolen
credit/debt card info to siphon money from your
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, a
longtime identity theft and credit reporting expert who
writes for Mint.com and CreditSesame.com.
monitoring is effective only when someone is using your
personal information to apply for new accounts, such as
car loans or credit cards, said Ulzheimer. "And in
that case, the consumer better hope the lender pulls
their Experian credit report or the free credit
monitoring service won’t set off any alarms."
free credit monitoring applies only to a consumer’s
Experian credit reports, not those of Equifax or
TransUnion, noted Ulzheimer, who previously worked for
the identity theft expert, said there are lots of other
tools for consumers to protect themselves. Among them:
free copies of your credit reports once a year from each
of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax
and TransUnion) by going to http://
or call 877-322-8228.
sites where you can obtain a free credit score, such as
Credit.com, CreditKarma.com, Quizzle.com or
your bank and credit card statements routinely, daily if
possible. It only takes a few minutes but is an easy way
to spot fraudulent charges.
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. Many credit card issuers already do this
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general, "If someone calls, texts or sends you an
email asking you to do anything (related to your
financial life), hang up," said Levin. "If
someone communicates with you out of the blue, claiming
to be a retailer, the IRS or some other (agency), that’s
when you have to be in control."
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 that’s
purportedly contacting you. Never click on unfamiliar
links in emails. Never carry your Social Security card
type of credit monitoring service that Target is
offering isn’t unusual, said Ulzheimer, noting that
other companies with data breaches have also made it
you sign up?
time you’re given a chance — for free — to get a
glimpse of activity in your credit files, you should
"absolutely take advantage of that
opportunity," said Levin. "It’s a chicken
soup moment: ‘What can it help?’ But the real
question is, ‘What can it hurt?’ "