Consumer Reports is unbridled in its criticism of Target’s “free credit monitoring” offered to millions of consumers affected by the retailer’s massive security breach over the holidays.
“The service can give consumers a false sense of security,” Consumer Reports said.
The organization said it can “recommend this deal in its present form only as being better than nothing, and only for consumers who understand its significant shortcomings.”
About 40 million customers whose payment card data was stolen by hackers, and another 70 million shoppers whose names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses were stolen, have been offered the service by Target.
Here are the major points of criticism from CR:
- Once they sign on to the service, consumers are pushed into paying up to $74 more. “An Experian ad … pitched me to buy my ‘total credit picture. Why wait? View all three of your credit reports and scores now’ for $14.95.”
- The type of credit monitoring offered by Target watches only one credit report— Experian’s — and not the credit files maintained by Equifax and TransUnion. That’s a huge disadvantage, since the data from the three major bureaus can differ significantly.
- This form of credit monitoring is not much use for old-fashioned credit card theft, because monitoring watches your credit report, not unauthorized charges to your existing accounts. That a consumer can arrange to do for free with most credit and debit card issuers, especially the major banks.
- Some of those Experian ads exploit consumers who are ignorant of their rights, because consumer protection laws allow ID theft victims to place a free 90-day fraud alert on their credit report and get their credit reports from all three credit bureaus absolutely free.
Read CR’s full review.