Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fallout from recent breach of data at major U.S. retailer will continue for a while

A data breach at TJX Companies Inc. last month reportedly affected millions of past customers of the U.S. retailer, which operates numerous well-known department stores. Consumers need to remain vigilant and guard their financial records statements against wide-scale, related credit card fraud.

Last month I discussed the TJX data breach on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 in Boston, Mass., and WCBS NewsRadio 880 in New York City. First and foremost, make sure nothing is awry with your credit card statements. Watch your bank statements, too, and contact the credit bureaus to keep an eye on your records.

Identity thieves and fraudsters can do a lot with the kind of information typically lost in the type of data breach we've seen unfold these past couple weeks, and organizations that suffer massive data breaches like this often have little idea how many records of data are indeed in jeopardy. That kind of uncertainty is dangerous not just for customers, the obvious victims. Burglarized institutions then face their constituents' ire. The possibility of towering expenses related to easily justified class action suits, not to mention the hefty public relations retainer fees for crisis communication, can leave an organizations very survival in question.

Anyone possibly affected by the any large datas breach should obtain tools that help citizens to monitor their own information in the wake of such breaches. Arlington, VA-based MyPublicInfo provides such a tool, the Public Information Profile (PIP), which enables view public records connected to his name and see information accessible to other people performing background checks. This tool provides consumers with user-friendly, complete, and legally conforming personal profiles of aggregated public information.

Vigilance is the best recourse not only for the short-term, but for the long-term. Customers must take their financial information—their very identities, in fact—into their own hands. As we've seen all too often in the wake countless data breaches these past few years, when it comes to identity theft, we can ultimately count on nobody to protect us but ourselves.

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