If you were one of the millions of victims of the recent raid of payment card and personal information at Target stores there is now an 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. 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. 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, routinely monitor your legitimate accounts for fraudulent activity. Consumer Reports says to 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’s website at consumer.ftc.gov and search “identity theft.”
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