You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Red Sox Live

0

0

▼  3rd Inning 0 outs

Consumer Alert

Protecting your credit requires you to have vigilance

When you consider the sheer number of people affected by the data breach at Target (and Neiman Marcus and Michaels and who knows how many more), it’s pretty clear that as consumers we’re vulnerable. We spend money at stores and most of us use credit or debit cards — both of which leave electronic trails for crooks to follow.

Data is stolen from businesses of all sorts, more often than many people realize. The majority of customers are unlikely to suffer more than an inconvenience. But some could face a long ordeal with minefields that can take months or years to negotiate. It all depends on what information was stolen and whether your information is used to steal your identity.

Continue reading below

That brings us to the offer Target made to provide a year of free identity theft protection to anyone who shopped there in the past year. Identity theft protection is generally a service that alerts you to changes in your credit history — most significantly the opening of new lines of credit that you didn’t apply for.

Generally, that sort of protection is helpful only if your Social Security number, which is needed to apply for credit, is in the hands of thieves. So far, there’s no indication that information was accessed at Target.

On the upside, the service is free and can be helpful if there’s a problem. Experian, the provider of the service, promises to work with victims to clear up credit damaged by fraud. On the flip side, it won’t prevent theft and you have to provide them your Social Security number.

Regardless of whether you choose to sign up, you still have to be vigilant checking your bills and going to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your credit history free once a year from each of the three big credit bureaus.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.