– AG offers tips to consumers to protect themselves –
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli today warned Virginians to be vigilant with their email and protect their computer networks in the wake of a massive data breach of consumer information last weekend.
According to online marketer Epsilon, a hacker breached a database of consumer information that included millions of names and email addresses. Epsilon services such companies as Capital One, Home Shopping Network, Walgreens, TiVo, Kroger, and Hilton Hotels, chain stores, and numerous others.
“Breaches like this may lead to criminals using the stolen information to pose as legitimate companies and send scam emails to consumers in an attempt to gather personal information,” Cuccinelli warned.
“Consumers should not open emails that appear suspicious or click on links embedded within emails – even from companies they know – as they could release harmful viruses or tracking software on their computers. Links within emails could also lead consumers to fake web sites that ask for passwords, account numbers, or other sensitive information. If someone has a concern about emails from her financial institution or other companies she deals with, she can go directly to that company’s web page by typing the web address directly into her web browser. Do not navigate to it through an email link.”
The attorney general’s office has received 237 database breach notification since January 2010 and works to ensure that companies experiencing database breaches comply with Virginia law in notifying affected Virginians. Data breaches lead to an increased risk of identity theft and fraud, thus all Virginians should regularly monitor their financial accounts by reviewing monthly statements and credit reports.
In addition to the above advice, citizens should heed the following:
· use strong passwords for email, computer, and financial accounts, including variations of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols of at least 8 characters;
· install anti-virus programs that automatically scan files and emails regularly;
· never download software programs from unknown publishers;
· check for regular updates to their operating systems;
· install and activate software and hardware firewalls;
· back-up all data regularly using an external or USB drive.
People who have questions regarding computer crimes or who believe they are victims of computer crime can contact the attorney general’s Computer Crime Section at [email protected] or at 804-786-2071.
The attorney general’s office is dedicated to empowering Virginians to avoid becoming victims of identity crime and providing them with the necessary knowledge to be proactive should they fall victim. The office has published the informational resource, “How to Avoid Identity Theft – A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft.” Anyone may access and print a copy of this book at http://www.vaag.com/FAQs/FAQ_IDTheft.html or request a hard copy by e‑mailing the Computer Crime Section at [email protected]
Additionally, the office offers an Identity Theft Passport, a wallet-sized card that individuals who have been victims of identity crime can carry and present to law enforcement or other individuals who may challenge them about their identity. The Identity Theft Passport is available to any Virginian who has filed a police report claiming he is a victim of an identity crime. Individuals may download the Identity Theft Passport application from the attorney general’s website or can contact the Victim Notification Program at 804-786-2071.