The email is not a scam
John Matarese checks into a free offer from Target stores.
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Kellie Kruse is one of millions of Target shoppers who recently opened their inbox to find an e-mail offering free credit monitoring. But after Target's massive data theft, Kruse says she was suspicious this could be part of the breach as well. "I received the email about getting a free credit monitoring service," she said, "and I wasn't sure if it was a hoax, or legit." The worst part, Kruse says, is that when she clicked through to sign up for monitoring, it asked for her Social Security Number. After the data breach, she says, she did not want to share anything with Target, "especially any more information. I didn't want my credit to be compromised in any way." Not a Scam But it turns out the e-mail is legitimate. Target is offering a year of free credit monitoring through the credit bureau Experian. Experian, not Target, is running the program. And if you have ever dealt with a credit bureau, you know they require your Social Security Number and birth date to do anything: It's how they know you from everyone else with the same name.
You are giving your SSN to a major credit bureau, which already has it. After learning that, Kruse decided it wasn't a bad idea after all. "I think its great, and if it helps people keep track of their credit file, I think it's wonderful." But despite that praise, this longtime Target shopper won't give the store her debit card anymore. "I have been paying cash, instead of using a debit card or credit card, I've been more conscious about it." The Bottom Line Credit monitoring from one of the big 3 credit bureaus is good. Free monitoring is even better. It may not completely prevent ID theft, and it won't stop someone from using your credit card number, but it can alert you to trouble with your credit file right away. And if a store offers it free for a year, there's really no downside. If you are uncomfortable giving out your Social, that's fine, but you cannot get the monitoring. You also cannot get a copy of your credit report. So you may want to consider it, so you don't waste your money.
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