If you've used your credit card at Target in recent months, you may have received an email offering free credit monitoring for a year.
The emails and offer are a nice gesture after 40 million customers had their credit and debit card accounts leaked in a data breach that occurred just as the holiday shopping season shifted into high gear.
But Consumer Reporters experts have some concerns, and say Target's credit monitoring offer is not an effective strategy for consumer protection.
"The service can give consumers a false sense of security, and Consumer Reports can recommend this deal in its present form only as being better than nothing, and only for consumers who understand its significant shortcomings," Consumer Reports' Jeff Blyskal said.
Blyskal said the offer from Target is safe, but if you sign up for the free monitoring, you should expect a barrage of sales pitches from credit bureaus.
But Consumer Reports said you will be bombarded by emails offering several other services.
What you should do instead
Consumer Reports says credit monitoring doesn't monitor your credit-, debit-, and prepaid-card transactions for fraud, so consumers affected by the Target breach still need to do that. They recommend that you sign up for online for mobile access to your bank and credit card accounts, which give you daily real-time access to all transactions.
Target has also advised its customers to watch for attempts by the thieves to get their personal information that could enable them to commit greater frauds.
To help guard against that, Consumer Reports recommends you place free fraud alerts and security freezes on your credit reports at all three credit bureaus, stay safe online and never give personal identity or financial account information to anyone who calls, texts or e-mails you or knocks on your front door, and learn to spot phishing attempts.
If you think your credit, debit or prepaid card may have been compromised, ask the issuer for a freshly secure replacement.