News & Resources

Credit monitoring not enough to protect against ID theft

Mar 31, 2014 Dave King

In lieu of the incident that put more than 100 million customers at risk for identity theft, Target offered free credit monitoring. However, experts say that this could provide a false sense of security, as this service alone isn't enough to stop an incident, according to Desert News.

"The problem is that each of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, TransUnion and Experian - can collect different information," Margot Gilman of Consumer Reports, told the news source. "So unless you're checking all of them, you can miss someone trying to steal your identity and open new credit."

In addition to offering credit monitoring, Target, and any other business that has experienced a data breach, should consider providing customers with tips they can use to further protect themselves from identity theft, such as:

Monitor accounts regularly - A credit monitoring service is great, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't check up on accounts on their own. According to LearnVest, online banking has made it easier than ever to personally monitor accounts, so there is no excuse. This is one of the simplest tips businesses can offer to customers. If there is anything unusual on accounts, such as strange charges or changed information, people should contact their credit card company immediately.

Check the mail - One of the most common things criminals do when they steal a person's identity is open accounts using stolen names. For this reason, businesses should tell people to keep an eye on their mailbox for strange account statements. If a statement is received for an account that a person didn't open, it is probably best to get in contact with that bank to inform them of the situation. Failing to do so could lead the criminal to rack up debt on the account, which could damage consumer credit scores.

Shred financial documents - Many people don't think twice about throwing away bank statements and other financial papers. However, businesses should inform consumers that it is much safer to shred these documents before putting them in the trash, because identity thieves can rummage through garbage barrels to get information they can use to steal identities.

In a situation such as Target's, companies need to do everything they can to save face and get consumers back on their good side. Providing tips on how to prevent identity theft is a good first move toward accomplishing this goal.