Major Retail Data Breaches Put You at Risk

by Barbara Parrott McGinity, LMSW

Seems like every other week we hear about a new company or retailer whose data security system has been breached by hackers. If you have shopped at Target or Home Deport, or bank with JP Morgan Chase, there is possibility that your personal information has been put at risk for use by thieves.

The first thought that comes to mind is how do you protect yourself from identity theft? These companies frequently offer free credit monitoring services for up to a year. You should take advantage of such offers, but remember, at the end of that year, you will have to pay to for continued credit monitoring.

But aside from the possible identity theft, how else are you at risk from these data breaches? The hackers not only steal credit information and personal identifiers, they also get information your name, the name of a spouse, your phone number, your email address and your mailing address. This type of information can be used to fool you into giving away more information or even worse, giving away your money.

Information like this can be used to make an email, phone call or letter to you sound personal in an attempt to lure you into a trap. The most likely way they will access you is by email. The email will be personally addressed, look like something official from a company you do business with, but will include some type of link you are asked to click.

If you follow instructions and “click,” then this link spreads a virus through your computer, stealing information, especially email addresses of friends and families. Then they receive an email that appears to be from you with a link, and the process goes on and on.

Maybe they send you an email with personal information and say they are with the FBI and accuse you of buying child pornography over the Internet. Or maybe they are the IRS and say they will put you in jail if you do not pay the money you owe them. The possibilities are endless. Remember, no government agency will contact you by email or phone and they do not ask people to wire money as a way to avoid jail.

What can you do? First of all, NEVER click on any links sent to you in an email from friends or family. Ask them what they are sending first. Second, if you think it is a legitimate email from a company, again, do not click on any links to a website. Open up your browser and type in the address to the website yourself. This way you will be sure to get to the correct website.

Remember, the people who are committing these data breaches are very smart. It is their job to steal information and to come up with a way to use it to their benefit. You can avoid being a victim twice if you think before acting. If you have a question or have a suspicious experience, call and we can discuss, 713-341-6184.


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