Fallout From Target's Data Breach

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Patrick was distressed to find out that shortly after shopping at Target over the holidays, thieves were able to go to town and rack up charges on his American Express card.

Patrick says, “They were able to run up over four-thousand dollars on my American Express. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay for any of the fraudulent charges.”

American Express replaced Patrick’s card. But there is still the danger that thieves could use the stolen information to try and get his Social Security number and then open new accounts in his name. Target says it is offering “peace of mind” against that threat with free credit monitoring from Experian. But Consumer Reports says that’s not enough.

Margot Gilman of Consumer Reports says, “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.”

Consumer Reports says data breaches are an ongoing threat.
To better protect yourself against ID theft and fraud … not only get credit reports from all three credit bureaus, but consider having them place a security freeze on your credit file.

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

And, of course, as Patrick does, routinely monitor your legitimate accounts for fraudulent activity.

Gilman says, “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.

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