Target is offering a great big mea culpa as a result of its recent data breach: a year’s worth of free credit monitoring through Experian. This is for anyone who shopped at Target stores in the United States between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.
Personal finance expert Liz Weston offers some best-practices tips plus a legitimate URL where you can sign up for the service. According to the Target website, consumers need to be wary of e-mails and phone calls by scammers pretending to represent the company but who “are really trying to get personal information from you.”
Experian may try to get something from you, too, according to Weston: “It will try to sell you upgrades, such as a peek at ‘your credit score’ – actually a PLUS score that isn’t used by lenders.” But you don’t have to give a credit card number or pay for anything, because Target is picking up the tab.
You do, however, have to provide your Social Security number and some other info, so that Experian can make sure it’s protecting the right person.
Incidentally, Weston isn’t usually a fan of paid credit protection. “But free on-demand access to your credit information–plus alerts of suspicious activity–is a deal worth getting,” she notes.
The deadline to sign up is April 23, and you have until April 30 to redeem the activation code.
More free protection
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is offering a year’s worth of credit monitoring as part of “Sharpen Your Financial Focus,” a three-part program to help consumers get a handle on their money.
Here’s the interesting part: Although the NFCC is renowned for helping people with serious money issues, you don’t need to be in debt to sign up for “Sharpen.” Even those who feel they’re doing OK might benefit from another set of eyes.
The program has thee elements:
- A financial review with an NFCC-certified professional
- A workshop on the topic of your choice
- An online self-assessment tool called “MyMoneyCheckUp” (available in English and Spanish)
You can learn about these in any order you like, according to NFCC spokeswoman Gail Cunningham: “We’re not telling people what to do. We’re helping them do it in whatever way is most comfortable to them.”
The free credit product is a 12-month membership to Experian’s FreeCreditScore.com. That gets you monitoring, alerts about new activity on your credit report, a mobile app enabling alerts and updates on the go, and access to fraud resolution agents if suspicious activity is found.
Remember: While federal laws do protect you against loss, you are responsible for reporting potential fraud or misuse. I’m with Weston when it comes to paying for the privilege. Instead, get your three free credit reports each year and monitor your bank accounts and credit cards on your own. For most people, that should do it.