The Better Business Bureau is urging consumers to take a hands-on approach in monitoring financial records after five Russian and Ukrainian hackers were charged with stealing 160 million credit card numbers over seven years.
Caitlin Vancas, spokeswoman for the BBB of Western Pennsylvania, said people need to take a closer look at their bills and statements in order to stay secure.
“Take a proactive stance on your data protection,” Vancas said. “Just because you do stand a better chance of avoiding such data breaches and limiting the extent of damages if any kind of fraudulent activity is to occur.”
The scheme resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
The hackers were able to access the credit card information at random from major companies like JCPenny, Jet Blue and 7-Eleven, but, according to Vancas, 85 percent of data breaches occur at the small business level.
“It’s extremely important that those local retailers that we deal with on a consistent basis also have those precautions put into place,” Vancas said, “and consumers ask the questions necessary of them, as well as the more corporate entities.”
Vancas said mapping the victims by location has not started.
The BBB is offering these tips to keep your information safe from identity thieves and hackers:
- Regularly monitor bank and credit card statements for fraudulent activity. Know what dates your bills arrive each month or are available to view online. Late or missing bills can indicate identity theft.
- Check credit reports on an annual basis. Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).
- Canceling credit cards or accounts may stop thieves from using existing accounts, but it doesn’t stop them from opening new accounts under your name. If your information has been misused by an unauthorized party, contact the fraud departments at Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
- If you suspect your mail is being diverted to another address, check your local post office to see whether an unauthorized change of address has been filed under your name.
- Before doing business with a company, examine its BBB business review.