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Better Business Bureau warns consumers about Russian hackers of Internet passwords

The New York Times reported Wednesday that a Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses.

While details are still limited, including which companies have fallen victim or how the hackers conducted the breach, Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington urges consumers to protect their online accounts, according to a BBB media release. The Times reports the hackers appear to be using stolen information to send spam on social networking sites like Twitter, and could be selling personal data on the black market.

BBB understands there is not much consumers can do to prevent data breaches from happening, but vigilance will help minimize the risk of falling victim to identity theft.

• Change passwords. Never use the same password for every online account or website.

• Monitor credit and bank statements. Go online to verify account information and do not wait for paper statements.

• Set up alerts. Set up automatic activity alerts on banking and credit card accounts and with the three credit reporting agencies.

• Report suspicious activity. Immediately report unauthorized charges and place a credit freeze on any compromised accounts.

• Save receipts. Keep all receipts handy in case charges need to be substantiated.

Also visit OnGuardOnline.gov, a website run by the Federal Trade Commission, for more tips on avoiding scams and protecting your computer.

Scammers will likely take advantage of this high-profile public data breach to phish for personal information. Over the next few weeks, be extremely wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls from purported financial institutions. Do not click on links, download attachments or provide sensitive information—like Social Security numbers—to unknown parties.

Business owners:  Make sure that your customers’ information is being protected. Check out BBB’s free Data Security – Made Simpler guide for businesses at bbb.org/data-security.

All Americans are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus; the only official source for these reports is at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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