BBB offers tips to deal with aftermath of data theft

In the wake of a recent data breach uncovered at the Chipotle restaurant chain, Connecticut Better Business Bureau says theft of personal and financial data is not something consumers can prevent, but they can minimize the impact.

“It may take days, weeks or months for large companies to discover and disclose the theft of private or financial customer information,” said Connecticut Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. “Until experts find a way of preventing database hacking, businesses face a major challenge. This recent breach is a wake-up call for businesses to strengthen their digital information collection and storage systems.”

In the case of the Chipotle data attack, it appears consumers’ credit card information was stolen from compromised point-of-sale terminals when customers swiped their payment cards. Although the terminals captured credit card numbers and their three-digit verification codes on the back of the cards, the company says no personal information was stolen.

During the rash of breaches over the past several years, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies’ data storage system was penetrated, giving cyber criminals access to customers’ sensitive personal information, including their Social Security Numbers, contact information and medical files.

Subsequent to the first reports of data theft several years ago, surveys have revealed many consumers said they don’t feel enough is done to protect their information.

With so much commerce conducted online with credit and debit cards, consumers are advised to use well-known and trustworthy sites to make purchases. One indication of a website vendor’s security measures, the letters “https,” and will appear in a browser’s address bar next to a padlock icon.

Connecticut BBB says there are ways to lessen problems caused by the theft of personal data:

  • Watch your accounts — Even you find a $10 credit or debit card transaction you can’t account for, contact your financial institution immediately to report it.
  • Don’t worry, but don’t wait — If you use a debit or credit card, carefully review all financial statements as soon as possible to look for errors or any unusual activity. Most credit cards have zero liability, meaning victims are not responsible for fraudulent charges. It is crucial card issuers know as quickly as possible if there is a problem. Credit cards provide better fraud protection than debit cards. Stolen debit card information can empty victims’ bank accounts.
  • Be selective about giving out your information — Store discount cards, coupons and raffles usually require an applicant’s contact information, including a telephone number and street and email addresses. Unless there is a clear disclosure, you won’t know how your personal information will be handled, if it will be sold, to whom or how it will be used.
  • Monitor your credit reports — You may obtain a free, no strings attached credit report at Annualcreditreport.com, which is run by the three credit reporting companies. You are entitled to a report from each of the companies every 12 months. This enables you to obtain a report from one of the credit reporting companies every four months to allow you to monitor credit activity throughout the year. You can register online at Annualcreditreport.com, or by calling 877-322-8228.

Find out if you can opt-out of information-sharing with vendors’ third party affiliates and marketing companies. Opt-out information is typically found on financial or utility statements, as well as contracts with large companies.

To find additional information on safe shopping, identity theft protection and more, visit bbb.org.

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