The problem is that this data was most likely stolen as part of a "phishing" campaign. This is where bogus e-mails are sent to people in an effort to get them to go to bogus web sites that either launch malware on your computer or ask you for confidential information ("Hey, it sure looked like my bank's web site!") The danger comes in because this data makes these e-mails look even more legitimate because the "Phishers" know you do business with these companies. An article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer offers five basic suggestions for protecting yourself from these "phishing" schemes:
- Never click on links in e-mails. Use a link you have for that site in your Favorites, or type it yourself into the browser window.
- Display e-mail in plain text format. Many e-mail programs, like Outlook, can display e-mails with fancy graphics and formatting. But this can hide true web addresses in the displayed links or put malicious code in the graphics themselves.
- Keep all of your software updated.
- Type or paste web addresses.
- Use multiple e-mail addresses. If you register particular e-mail addresses at particular sites, "phishing" e-mails will look more out of place if they are just randomly sending to gleaned addresses.
Check out the article itself for more detailed information on the story, and always be vigilant online. It is one of the most important things you can do to avoid identity theft.