News & Resources

Massive data breach puts millions of email addresses at risk of ID theft

Apr 23, 2011 Brian Bradley

These days, consumers are accustomed to providing information to companies while registering for websites in order to use online services. However, with more and more information on the web, the threat of identity theft from hackers working to steal data has become a real problem for the companies and their clients. One of the most widespread data breaches in history recently occurred, when criminals obtained millions of email addresses exposing them possible phishing scams. The widespread security breach at Texas-based Epsilon has put customers of some of the most well-known brands, including, Best Buy, L.L. Bean, Capital One Financial, JPMorgan Chase, Marriott and others, at risk of these nefarious schemes. Once a phishing scam artist has a person's email, they will often use it to send out messages wherein they request personal information. Often the thieves will try to obtain bank account and credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and other confidential data, which can then be used to steal a person's identity. Though the emails can look as if they have come from an official source, it will often be a scam. In a recent release, the Better Business Bureau advised consumers not to reply to emails with links attached to them, not to give out personal information to sources claiming to represent the business and to alert family and friends that they could be possible targets. "These hackers are looking for you to respond with vital information that can ultimately lead to identity theft," said Stephen A. Cox, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "Consumers need to know the red flags in order to keep their identity protected." The BBB goes on to say that there are some "red flags" consumers can look out for to determine if an email is legitimate. The organization writes that if there are grammatical errors or misspelled words, then the message most likely is not from a legitimate source. Another sign that an email is coming from a criminal element is when a firm asks you to wire it money - which a customer should never do if he or she is unsure of the source. If a person has found themselves in the middle of an identity theft-related scam, he or she should contact the Federal Trade Commission. By going on the FTC's official website or calling its toll-free number, a person can file a complaint and hopefully get the issue resolved.