More vigilance needed after Target data breach
If you were one of the millions of victims of the recent raid of payment card and personal information at Target stores there is additional reason for concern. Target says it is offering "peace of mind" against identity theft threat with free credit monitoring from Experian. But Consumer Reports says that's not enough.
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.
Data breaches are an ongoing threat so to better protect yourself against ID theft and fraud you should be sure to get a free get credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus through the website annualcreditreport.com. Keep in mind that many companies claim they'll give you a credit report for free, but most are membership offers that require a credit card and result in ongoing charges. Annualcreditreport.com is the only truly free website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.
You should also consider having the 3 credit bureaus place a security freeze on your credit file. A security freeze is one of the best protections. It blocks access to your credit information and makes it more difficult for anyone to open a new account under your name, including you, without your specific, direct verification and authorization.
It is also critical to constantly monitor all your accounts for fraudulent activity and be especially vigilant about your debit card. If it is compromised, thieves can raid your bank accounts. That can create a cascade of issues including bounced checks, extra fees and cash flow problems.
Consumer Reports says most of the security protections you can put in place yourself are free or low cost, so there is no need to get expensive data monitoring services. For more advice on how to protect yourself against identity theft go to the Federal Trade Commission website and click on "Tips and Advice", then click on "For Consumers" in the drop down menu.