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« Worried About Target Hacking? How to Check for Potential Fraud | Main | New Year’s Day Car Thefts: 5 Keys to Prevention »

Target’s ‘Free Credit Report’ Offer Isn’t Anything Special

After Target's security breach, many customers are scrambling to make sure they are not victims of identity theft. As an apology for the massive security breach that affected 40 million credit and debit card accounts -- and an attempt to win back customers -- the stores are now offering 10 percent off total purchases and free credit reports.

Media sources like Miami's WFOR-TV are spinning the retail giant's offer of a "free credit report" as a special thing, but it isn't actually that big of a deal.

"Free" Credit Reports

In a statement released by Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, Target will offer a 10% discount that will last from Saturday, Dec. 21 to Sunday, Dec. 22. All shoppers are also entitled to a free credit report, directly, from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

But here's the thing: Target isn't actually doing consumers any favors. Under federal law, every consumer is entitled to a free credit report.

Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit-reporting companies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- to give people a free credit report every 12 months if requested. Obtain a free copy of your credit report by going to the Annual Credit Report website or by calling 877-322-8228.

Checking Your Credit Report

Once you've obtained your credit report from any one of the three consumer credit reporting companies, review your credit report. Pay particularly close attention to the following information:

  • A list of reported prior addresses and phone numbers,
  • A list of bank accounts and loans in your name,
  • A month-to-month breakdown of each account, indicating whether payments were made on time or late,
  • An indication of whether an account is in collections or foreclosure, and
  • Which companies have accessed your credit information and their contact information.

Check your reports for anything that strikes you as incorrect or odd. Such information may indicate that you have been the target of identity theft.

As Target wrote on its website, "If you discover information on your credit report arising from a fraudulent transaction, you should request that the credit reporting agency delete that information from your credit report file." To give customers extra help, Target is offering affected customers free fraud monitoring services.

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