BBB advises people to take precaution after Ashley Madison breach

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BOONE COUNTY - Missouri's Better Business Bureau branches are advising consumers to be careful about what information they post and give to companies online, after the nationwide data breach on the cheating website, Ashley Madison.

"A St. Louis County woman recently sued the website for failure to remove her identity, and reports already have surfaced of hackers using the stolen data tocommit fraud," according to the BBB. 

Ashley Madison's parent company, Avid Life Media, is located in Canada. It is offering a $500,000 award to anyone who has information leading to the hacker.

A Toronto police officer, Staff Sgt. Bryce Evans, said last week at a press conference there have been two uncomfirmed reports of suicides associated with the hack.

"Criminals have already engaged in online scams by claiming to provide access to the leaked websites," Evans said. "The public needs to be aware that by clicking on these links you are exposing your computers to malware, spyware, adware and viruses. There is also websites that are offering to erase customer profiles from the database for a fee. This is also a scam. Multiple sites have now been downloaded and they are present. Nobody is going to be able to erase that information."

Cody Bounds is a detective at the Boone County Sheriff's Department Cyber Crimes Task Force. He said people should keep track of online accounts and make good passwords. He said customer service representatives should be aware of social engineering that hackers can potentially use against them. 

"I think with this data breach, we're going to see less phone calls from the general public concerned about that as opposed to say the Home Depot data breach," Bounds said. "Because nobody, of course, wants to admit they have an account on Ashley Madison, so they are less likely to call about this particular one."

BBB stated that "in other situations where customer accounts were hacked, the stolen data was used to commit financial fraud, such as using the information to open credit card accounts or draining bank accounts."

BBB advises consumers who are victims of a data breach to act quickly to secure their financial accounts and online presence, such as email and social media accounts.

An assistant professor at MU's School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, Jenny Bossaller, said people should act online the same way they would act in person because there's a possibility they may be under surveillance. 

"That means watching what you post and making sure that the persona you create for yourself out there is going to be appropriate for all audiences. So think of that as an extension of yourself and craft that carefully," Bossaller said. "When you're talking about your personal data like your banking data, your social security numbers, we feel bad for people when that happens because that can happen to us. I think there was a lot less sympathy [in the Ashley Madison case]."

The following information is a list of tips that the BBB suggests people use to secure personal information:

1. Do not take a "wait and see" approach as you may have done with breaches involving

credit card data. You must act quickly. Breaches involving Social Security numbers have

the potential to be far more detrimental to victims, and the damage can be difficult to


2. Consider taking a preemptive strike by freezing your credit reports. This will not impact

existing credit cards and financial accounts, but will create a roadblock for thieves

seeking to create fraudulent accounts using your personal information.

3. At a minimum, if you know your Social Security number has been compromised, place a

fraud alert on your credit reports. While less effective than a freeze, this will provide an

extra layer of protection. Click here to learn more about security freezes and fraud


4. Consider taking advantage of free credit monitoring services that a company offers to

breach victims. While this is not a preventive measure, it will alert you to new accounts

or inquiries using your Social Security number so that you can act quickly to repair the


5. Vigilance is key. Regularly check your credit reports at for

unauthorized charges or other signs of fraud. (NOTE: This is the only free credit report

option authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.)

6. For more information and complete step-by-step guidance on repairing the damage

caused by identity theft, visit the FTC's identity theft resources.

7. Expect that scammers will take advantage of this data breach to send out phishing

emails and other messages that appear to be from the company that was hacked, a

credit bureau or other legitimate companies. Do not click on links from any email, text

or social media messages about this or any other data breach.