Retailers Target and Micheal's are taking major steps to regain customer confidence lost in recent data breaches. Those security breaches impacted millions of customers and caused numerous credit and identity problems for shoppers.
Both companies are now offering free services to combat future problems. Some include no-charge credit monitoring for one year, free annual credit reports, access to a fraud resolution agent should you be a victim of ID theft, and fraud resolution insurance up to $1 million to cover any costs that may occur.
While at first glance these services appear helpful they have their limitations. Target's credit monitoring will be provided by ProtectMyID, a subsidiary of Experian, only one of the three main credit reporting bureaus in the U.S. Unfortunately the other two major reporting bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, are not covered by the offering. Since only a third of these bureaus will be monitored consumers can still be vulnerable and perhaps unaware of any flagrant activity.
Cost can also become an issue. As stated above the free portion of the plan expires after 12 months. To continue you will have to pay approximately $15.95 per month.
The inclusion of a credit score is also missing from the plan. This is important since it could indicate intrusive activity should it drop suddenly. Consumers who want this information can expect to pay ProtectMyID $9.95 for the Experian score and an additional $14.95 for their Equifax and TransUnion scores.
In total the retailers' offerings are a good start, but just one piece of an entire security puzzle that consumers need to address. Here are six other tips to consider to avoid identity theft.
1. Secure and monitor your credit score on a regular basis.
You can pay the fee listed above or get your score free from several services. One of which is CreditKarma an advertising supported website that provides the TransUnion credit score at no charge. You should be able to track your score online and watch for any noticeable changes.
2. Secure free credit reports.
Individuals are entitled to a free credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus. You can receive one per year at no charge. Consumers may wish to purchase these on a more regular basis to monitor any variations.
3. Check banking and credit activities as often as possible.
Many credit and financial firms are adept at watching for questionable activity regarding individual accounts. You can contact your bank or credit union and see what type of monitoring services they provide. Still the best protection is to watch for major changes in your personal account activity on a daily or at least weekly basis.
4. Leave your social security card at home.
There is no need to carry your social security card with you. Should it be lost or stolen major problems can occur.
5. Disregard questionable phone calls, texts and emails about your financial status.
A good rule of thumb is to disregard any contact from an unknown institution trying to reach you about your financial history. Many of these "firms" are actually thugs hoping to gain access to your personal information.
6. Avoid suspicious links to financial web sites.
Clicking on a link may not take you to your actual bank or financial institution. It is always best to open your browser manually and actually type in the bank website to avoid linking to a nefarious site.
While major retailers are taking action to restore consumer confidence in their operations, there is no security program that is 100 per cent guaranteed from a major breach. Following these six additional steps, however, can be extremely helpful in preventing identify theft. You may sleep better at night knowing your vital information is a little safer and more secure.
Marc Arbesman is a partner and CIO of ThrottleNet, Inc. ThrottleNet offers an array of technology services and products to help business owners achieve their corporate goals, while reducing overhead. This is accomplished through outsourced Managed Network Services which helps companies improve their technology uptime and IT capabilities while, at the same time, reducing costs. The firm offers custom software development and mobile applications to help companies accelerate their business growth. For additional information contact ThrottleNet online at http://www.throttlenet.com or call 866-826-5966