Credit Monitoring for (Possible) Victims of the Target Hack

by Michael on Jan 13, 2014 · 5 comments

Silhouette of a Hacker

Earlier this afternoon, I received an e-mail from Target regarding their pre-holiday data breach. It seems that the more they investigate, the worse the situation gets.

At first, they thought that hackers had snatched the credit and debit card info of 40M customers. But now they’re saying that the names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and/or e-mail addresses of an additional 70M customers may have been compromised.

And guess what? I’m one of the lucky ones who may have been impacted. So… What are they doing about it? That’s a great question.

Because they “value [me] as a guest,” they’re offering me (and everyone else, it seems) a year of free credit monitoring through Experian’s ProtectMyID program.

Update: Want to keep tabs on your reports from all three credit bureaus? If so, check out my free, diy credit monitoring tool. It’s basically an e-mail reminder system for accessing your credit reports throughout the year.

This offer is apparently available to “all Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores” without any reference to a time window. So if you’ve ever shopped at Target, you apparently qualify. You don’t need to have received the e-mail from them to qualify.

The ProtectMyID service apparently provides you with a free copy of your Experian credit report (but not your credit score) and then monitors that report on a daily basis, notifying you of any key changes. It also provides you with “identify theft insurance” to help cover certain costs associated with identity theft.

Related: If you’d like to keep track on your credit score, too, consider applying for the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard, which gives you free, ongoing access to your real FICO credit score. Details here.

You can request a ProtectMyID activation code at by submitting your name and e-mail address. I did this for both my wife and me. Note that you’ll need to use a different e-mail address for each request.

When you submit your name and e-mail address, you’ll be greeted with a message saying that they’ll e-mail you the code within the next 1-5 days. But for both of our codes showed up within just a few minutes.

For the curious, here’s the text of Target’s e-mail:

Dear Target Guest,

As you may have heard or read, Target learned in mid-December that criminals forced their way into our systems and took guest information, including debit and credit card data. Late last week, as part of our ongoing investigation, we learned that additional information, including name, mailing address, phone number or email address, was also taken. I am writing to make you aware that your name, mailing address, phone number or email address may have been taken during the intrusion.

I am truly sorry this incident occurred and sincerely regret any inconvenience it may cause you. Because we value you as a guest and your trust is important to us, Target is offering one year of free credit monitoring to all Target guests who shopped in U.S. stores, through Experian’s® ProtectMyID® product which includes identity theft insurance where available. To receive your unique activation code for this service, please go to and register before April 23, 2014. Activation codes must be redeemed by April 30, 2014.

In addition, to guard against possible scams, always be cautious about sharing personal information, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, user IDs and financial account information. Here are some tips that will help protect you:

  • Never share information with anyone over the phone, email or text, even if they claim to be someone you know or do business with. Instead, ask for a call-back number.
  • Delete texts immediately from numbers or names you don’t recognize.
  • Be wary of emails that ask for money or send you to suspicious websites. Don’t click links within emails you don’t recognize.

Target’s email communication regarding this incident will never ask you to provide personal or sensitive information.

Thank you for your patience and loyalty to Target. You can find additional information and FAQs about this incident at our website. If you have further questions, you may call us at 866-852-8680.

Gregg Steinhafel
Chairman, President and CEO

Remember, whether or not you got this message, it looks like you can sign up for the free credit monitoring. Just go to the site mentioned above and submit your name and e-mail address to get started.

1 Kurt @ Money Counselor January 14, 2014 at 11:41 am

Nothing wrong with accepting the credit monitoring while it’s free, but I worry that those who accept will be seduced by the inevitable hard sell from Experian to purchase credit monitoring after the free period expires.

For most people most of the time, credit monitoring is a waste of money. Understand that Target’s offer is designed to control its mounting legal liability as a result of this fiasco, not to actually serve its customers. If you have reason to suspect you may be the victim credit fraud, a credit freeze will PREVENT fraud, not just let you know about it after the fact, which is what monitoring does. And a freeze is cheaper.

2 Money Beagle January 14, 2014 at 12:21 pm

I’m keeping an eye on that. I hope that the free monitoring doesn’t require users to put in payment information, because how many people will forget to cancel after the free year? A lot, and this would likely be another black eye to Target that they don’t need.

3 Michael January 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm

They’re saying that it won’t auto-renew, though I wouldn’t rule out the possible “hard sell” that Kurt referenced above.

4 SJ January 18, 2014 at 6:55 am

I just subscribed to Target’s offer. No credit card needed. However only Experian’s report is free.

5 Michael January 18, 2014 at 11:10 am

Right, Experian only. If you’d like to keep an eye on all three, check this out: credit report reminders.

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