CHICAGO, IL –December 15, 2010 – The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois warns that data breaches such as those that occurred recently with McDonald’s, Walgreens, and the online media company Gawker show how easily your personal, medical, or financial information can be compromised, through no fault of your own.
In the case of these three companies hackers did not obtain any medical or financial information; however, for McDonald’s their customers were potentially exposed to having their e-mail information, names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and gender information compromised. Walgreens said hackers only gained access to customers e-mail information which may have allowed them to send spam asking their customers to input personal data into a false website.
“One very important lesson learned with the Gawker breach where more than 1.3 million people had their emails and passwords compromised is to develop good habits for updating passwords and at the very least, not using the same password for every website,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “As consumers, we must always be vigilant in protecting ourselves against becoming a victim of identity theft.”
Should you find yourself a victim of a data breach, the BBB advises six things to do:
- Contact the organization that suffered the breach – A hot line may be setup to address your concerns and answer your questions.
- Contact any affected financial companies – If your bank accounts, credit card accounts, or investment accounts are affected, immediately contact the companies and request that the account be closed and a new one opened.
- Monitor your bank and credit statements closely – Check every item on your bank statements and credit card statements to be sure they are legitimate charges and expenditures. It is imperative this is done immediately after a data breach.
- File a fraud alert with all three (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion LLC) credit reporting agencies – Credit reporting agencies are required by law to flag your credit report for 90 days if you file a fraud alert. Then if someone tries to open a new account using your information you should be contacted for verification.
- Sign up for any free credit report monitoring that’s offered – If the company that compromised your information offers a free monitoring program take advantage of it.
- Obtain Annual Credit Reports - Consumers should obtain their credit report on a yearly basis to see if they have been a victim of identity theft. FREE reports can be obtained from www.annualcreditreport.com
Bernas adds, “Identity theft is still the fastest growing white collar crime. The BBB is here for consumers not only when they need help finding a trustworthy business or when they have a grievance with a company, but also to help protect their identity. Go to www.bbb.org for free information and www.chicagoshreds.com for free shred day events.”
For more information on preventing identity theft, visit www.bbb.org