Target Offers Identity Theft Protection In Wake of Data Breach

George Nielsen

As people try to recover from the extensive data breach that occurred over the holidays, some companies, like Target, are offering free theft protection services. However, what Target customers should know about identity theft protection is that it may not be the knight in shining armor they are looking for. At the beginning of this crisis, Target seemed to be handling the uproar, leaping on the worried response after its announcement about the 40 million credit cards that were breached and offering identity protection services. The company was quick to announce that it would be funding free credit monitoring services and a 10% discount to all patrons who signed up. What Target customers need to know about this identity theft protection service is whether or not it's worth it.

Customers would have one year of free credit monitoring, a service that includes a $1 million theft insurance. While trotting out words like "year of free credit" and "$1 million insurance" is undoubtedly an attempt to make customers feel like they are still safe shopping the Target name, experts are saying it is not all it's cracked up to be. What Target customers should know about identity theft protection is that most "theft protection" services are there to help after you have been robbed. The Chicago Tribune cautions, "Services that tout ID theft 'prevention' and 'protection' are overreaching. They mostly help you only after identity theft has happened. So, one problem is gaining a false sense of security, thinking you can pay for a service and you're done."

On top of that, many people have complained about being underwhelmed by the services that Target's free credit monitoring does offer. The credit monitoring service will alert you if there are changes to your credit history, changes like: an attempt to add an account, requests for your credit report, or an attempt to obtain credit in your name. All of these activities can be seen through regular monitoring of your credit, which experts say should be done once every four months. This brings up the worry of the Star Tribune, "…some consumer advocates are dubious that Protect My ID service is better than what consumers already can find out on their own."

Some customers are signing up because extra credit monitoring can't hurt. Along with the extra help, some people just don't have the time to check every 4 months. As a STAR interviewee points out, "I signed up for it because I don't have time to monitor my accounts as closely as I would like to." Either way, Target customers should make sure they know what they need to know about identity theft protection services before signing up.