The Edmond Sun

Business

April 2, 2014

Experts: Target’s credit-monitoring offer not enough to protect consumers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — It was the data breach that shook the retail world. When Target Corp. announced in December that 110 million of its customers’ payment and personal records had been breached, the news was unsettling — both because Target is such an iconic brand and because the breach was so invasive.

“Target really demonstrated there are now three certainties in life: death, taxes and breaches,” said Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911, a company that provides identity theft recovery and other services.

Target certainly isn’t the only retailer to have been hit — Michaels, Neiman Marcus and most recently Sally Beauty Supply have reported exposure of customer data — but it’s definitely among the biggest ever. According to Minneapolis-based Target, about 40 million customers’ debit and credit card information was exposed, as well as 70 million customers’ phone numbers, mail and email addresses.

In the aftermath, thousands of Americans had their credit or debit cards canceled by banks and credit unions.

Target has been busily doing damage control, issuing major apologies, testifying before Congress and contributing $5 million to a nationwide cybersecurity campaign. The company’s profits have plunged as wary consumers stayed away and Target still faces dozens of lawsuits by banks and others.

Perhaps most importantly, Target has been working to quell anxieties and rebuild the confidence of its shoppers. In its biggest mea culpa, the company has offered Target customers free credit monitoring for a year. But the deadline is fast approaching. Consumers have until April 23 to get signed up for the free offer.

“Target understands some guests are nervous about the impact the recent data breach may have on them. We are offering this product in order to ease all guest concerns and provide peace of mind,” said Target spokeswoman Sarah Van Nevel, in an email.

The free service is not limited to customers who shopped during the apparent data breach period, which Target initially identified as between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. Instead, the free credit monitoring is open to “anyone who shopped at Target.” Ever.

With about 1,800 U.S. stores and millions of customers, the potential number of sign-ups is enormous. Target said it does not have specific numbers on how many customers have signed up so far, but the offer “has been very well-received by Target’s guests,” said company spokeswoman Van Nevel.

If you share a credit card with a spouse or partner, both can sign up individually for free credit monitoring, which is provided by ProtectMyID, a subsidiary of Experian, one of the country’s three main credit reporting bureaus. You’ll get an alert any time there’s a change to your credit report, including newly opened accounts, new credit inquiries and new negative information, such as payment delinquencies. The offer also includes:

• A free copy of your credit report by Experian.

• Identity theft help. If confirmed as a victim of identity theft, you’re assigned a “fraud resolution agent” to walk you through the resolution process and answer step-by-step questions.

• Identity theft insurance: Victims are covered for certain costs, such as lost wages, private investigator fees and unauthorized electronic fund transfers.

Target’s credit monitoring is good for 12 months; after that, consumers can choose whether to continue the service on a paid basis.

To apply, go to http://www.target.com/databreach by April 23. You’ll be given an authorization code, which you type in at ProtectMyID.com. The sign-up must be completed before April 30. To ensure the credit monitoring goes to the correct account, you’ll be asked to provide your name and Social Security number. Target says it will not have access to any customers’ Social Security numbers.

But for those who sign up, it’s no guarantee that cybercrooks won’t steal your identity and wreak financial havoc in other ways, such as using stolen credit/debt card info to siphon money from your accounts.

“The service Target is giving away only monitors one of your three credit reports, which is like locking one of the three doors to your house,” said John Ulzheimer, a longtime identity theft and credit reporting expert who writes for Mint.com and CreditSesame.com.

Credit monitoring is effective only when someone is using your personal information to apply for new accounts, such as car loans or credit cards, said Ulzheimer. “And in that case, the consumer better hope the lender pulls their Experian credit report or the free credit monitoring service won’t set off any alarms.”

Target’s free credit monitoring applies only to a consumer’s Experian credit reports, not those of Equifax or TransUnion, noted Ulzheimer, who previously worked for Equifax.

Levin, the identity theft expert, said there are lots of other tools for consumers to protect themselves. Among them:

• Get free copies of your credit reports once a year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) by going to http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.

• Visit sites where you can obtain a free credit score, such as Credit.com, CreditKarma.com, Quizzle.com or CreditSesame.com.

• Check your bank and credit card statements routinely, daily if possible. It only takes a few minutes but is an easy way to spot fraudulent charges.

• Ask your bank or credit union about “transactional monitoring,” where they notify you by email or text whenever a transaction is unusual or occurs above a certain amount. Many credit card issuers already do this automatically.

In general, “If someone calls, texts or sends you an email asking you to do anything (related to your financial life), hang up,” said Levin. “If someone communicates with you out of the blue, claiming to be a retailer, the IRS or some other (agency), that’s when you have to be in control.”

Call the phone number on the back of your credit card or brokerage statement. Online, type in the URL yourself and go directly to the website of the institution that’s purportedly contacting you. Never click on unfamiliar links in emails. Never carry your Social Security card with you.

The type of credit monitoring service that Target is offering isn’t unusual, Ulzheimer said, noting that other companies with data breaches have also made it available.

Should you sign up?

Any time you’re given a chance — for free — to get a glimpse of activity in your credit files, you should “absolutely take advantage of that opportunity,” Levin said. “It’s a chicken soup moment: ‘What can it help?’ But the real question is, ‘What can it hurt?’”

1
Text Only
Business
  • MS_prisons 1.JPG DOC action could save $36.8 million annually

    The Oklahoma Department of Corrections expects to avert more than 2,100 offenders by 2021 saving more than $36.8 million annually, an audit states.
    Tuesday, State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones  released the results of a performance audit of the DOC that was requested by Gov. Mary Fallin. The audit for the period July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2013, distinctly focused on governance, financial management and capacity management.
    Audit recommendations included:

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • food bank.jpg Regional Food Bank receives donation

    At a special celebration event Wednesday, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation announced that over the last fiscal year they gave more than $30 million in cash and in-kind contributions to charitable organizations throughout Oklahoma. Additionally, the retailer and its Foundation have partnered with local food banks to provide more than 15 million pounds of food to residents.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • City spends $1.7 million on ITS

    Public safety will benefit by the Intelligent Transportation System with its implementation by the City of Edmond, said Steve Commons, assistant city manager.
    More vehicles are added to traffic volume as Edmond’s population grows. ITS connects all of the city’s traffic signals in order to improve traffic flow in present time with greater efficiency, Commons said Wednesday.
    “Some of that can be done through computer automation that tracks how traffic is changing,” Commons said.

    July 30, 2014

  • Downtown Master Plan accepted by council

    The 2014 Downtown Master Plan Study was accepted by a 3-0 vote Tuesday evening by the Edmond City Council.
    Fort Worth-based consulting group Freese and Nichols presented their final update to the 1998 Downtown Master Plan. The city hired the group at a cost of $300,000 to make recommendations for future development of Broadway in the central business district.
    “There are clearly some short-term (parking) options that we feel should move forward,” said Cody Richardson, of Freese and Nichols consultants of Fort Worth. “Better signage at existing parking lots.”

    July 29, 2014

  • Lambrecht Construction to build office

    The commercial site plan of a physician’s office was approved recently by the Edmond Planning Commission by a vote of 4-0.
    Lambrecht Construction plans to build the office at 3917  E. Covell Road in the Fairfax Business Office, north of Covell and west of Sooner Road, said Bob Schiermeyer, city planner.

    July 29, 2014

  • jc_ITS map.jpg City to improve traffic flow

    The Edmond City Council this week approved a services agreement with Electronic Technology, Inc. For the  installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems’ video wall system at a cost of $314,620. The vote was 3-0.
    ITS is a fiber optic, wireless or hybrid communication system of monitoring road events and equipment in the field, data archiving and predicting traffic volume, said Kent Kacir, an engineer with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • sales tax holiday.jpg Oklahoma sales tax takes a holiday

    Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1 and ending at midnight Aug. 3, Oklahomans will be able to participate in a sales tax holiday giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of sales tax.
    Yes, retailers may not charge tax, including state and local sales taxes on items that are tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday weekend. The sales of clothing and shoes priced at less than $100 are exempted from sales taxes.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Karan & Rwanda.jpg Peace through Business empowering women entrepreneurs

    Peace Through Business is part of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) based in Oklahoma City. It is a program that connects small business entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda with business owners in Oklahoma. One such entrepreneur found out about the program from a friend, applied, and was accepted to take part in this year’s session.
    Upon earning a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universite de Sciences et Technique de Lille in Belgium, Lyliose Nduhungirehe began her career working for a construction company in Brussels, but she quickly switched paths to Information Technology.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anderson Properties continues to grow

    Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties recently announced the acquisition of Tulsa-based Prudential Alliance Realty, an eight-office, 150-agent brokerage operating in Tulsa and Oklahoma City and Edmond.
    The transaction gives Anderson Properties, a full-service real estate agency a total of 38 offices and more than 600 agents.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County pays off jail tax early, seeks new one

    Logan County is paying off a sales tax ahead of schedule and needs a new one to be able to afford funding jail operation and maintenance, officials said.
    Citizens vote on the county sales tax which is split for redistribution by state law. The tax is collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and redistributed back to the county as specified by voters.
    In 2005, citizens passed a 10-year sales tax, scheduled to end next month, to fund the building, operation and maintenance of the county jail, which operates on a $1.3 million budget. Jail capacity is 188 without anyone in a holding cell or a temporary bunk. Thursday it was holding 130 inmates, said Logan County Chief Deputy Richard Stephens.

    July 26, 2014

Stocks