(WXYZ) - It's a helpless feeling… knowing that personal information about you is in the hands of thieves. But there are things you can do proactively to protect your name and credit.
Sierra Donlon is a busy mom of two who spent a lot of the holiday season doing what many of us did, shopping at Target. When she heard about the breach she wasn't overly concerned. Still, she started monitoring her account for any suspicious activity. So was American Express. The company called Sierra in mid-January..
"They said ‘have you attempted to make a $5000 purchase recently?' I said no. They said ‘okay, we've shut your card down right now.'"
But what if so far, you've been unscathed. I asked Andrew Johnson from GreenPath Debt Solutions if that means you don't need to worry.
"You can't assume that, because again this could be an ongoing process and who knows how these numbers may be used down the road."
And Target has admitted that other information was compromised as well, like names, mailing address, phone number of email address.
"There's so many different pieces that could fit together into someone stealing your identity, and charging a lot of money up against your good credit and credit score," Johnson explains.
Proactive Measures to Protect Yourself
And that's why our partners at Consumer Reports recommend you take aggressive measures to protect yourself. First, don't wait for fraud to occur and the bank to call. Your information is already out there, and it may just be a matter of time before it's used. You make the call and request new cards.
Then Consumer Reports suggest you a 90 day fraud alert on your credit reports. You can do that by contacting one of the big credit reporting bureaus, Equifax , Experian or TransUnion . They'll alert the other two. It's free to do. A fraud alert is a red flag for lenders to take extra measures verify who it is that's trying to open credit in your name.
"Every time you file a 90 day fraud alert, you get all three copies of your credit report for free, from all three of the credit bureaus," explains Jeff Blyskal, senior editor for Consumer Reports. Click here for article he wrote about this topic
Consumer Reports suggests that's a good stop gap until you take the next step.
"We think that it's a thing in the identity theft age, we think everyone should put a credit freeze on their credit report because it basically blocks access" Blyskal says.
It'll cost you $10 to put a freeze on each credit report. The freeze prohibits lenders from getting access to your credit report. If you need to say buy a car or get a mortgage, you can use a pin number to unfreeze the account. It may seem like a lot of work, but it could be the only way to combat thieves who always seem to be a step ahead.
If you choose not to take these measures, keep in mind, you're entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three big credit reporting bureaus. The only government authorized site to get a truly free report is www.annualcreditreport.com
Also, Target has offered a year of free credit monitoring for customers. You can read more about the offer at Target.com