BBB reminds online users to protect personal information

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By Better Business Bureau

 BBB wants to remind online users to protect their personal information. This comes after recent data breaches involving McDonalds, Walgreens, and the online media company, Gawker.

Even the most vigilant and fraud-conscious consumer can be a victim of identity theft due to a data breach at a corporation. In the case of the recent data breaches, no financial information or social security numbers have been compromised. However the data breaches make those customers vulnerable to phishing attacks, other scams, and identity theft.



The data breach at McDonald’s comes from the theft of a database containing information on those who signed up for promotions, such as its Monopoly game. McDonald’s customers were potentially exposed to having their e-mail information, names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, and gender information compromised. McDonald’s says it hired Arc Worldwide to do its promotional e-mail campaign. That company, in turn, hired another firm to coordinate and distribute the e-mails. It was that unnamed company’s records that were accessed. Customers with questions are asked to call McDonald's at 800-244-6227.



Walgreens said hackers gained access to customer’s e-mail information, which may have allowed them to send spam asking their customers to input personal data into a false website. Walgreens assures customers that prescription information, account, and any other personal information was not compromised. Walgreens will not send you emails asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. Walgreens Customers with questions are asked to call 888-980-0963.



A group hacked Gawker, an online gossip site, and posted the details of 1.5 million users, including their passwords, email addresses, and usernames online. Since many people use the same password for the different sites, spammers were able to log into users’ accounts on other sites like Twitter, where they posted tweets about acai berries. In response, Twitter and other popular websites have told millions of users to reset their password. Consumers should create different passwords for different sites to prevent having their accounts compromised. Here is some advice on creating strong passwords:



If you become the victim of a data breach, BBB suggests:


1.   Contact the organization that suffered the breach - A hot line may be setup to address your concerns and answer your questions.


2.   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.


3.   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.


4.   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.


5.   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.


6.   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.freecreditreport.com


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 on identity theft.


Small business owners looking for advice on preventing data breaches are encouraged to check out BBB’s Data Security – Made Simpler for free guidance at www.bbb.org/data-security.