RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A consumer alert now -- your private email address may have fallen into the wrong hands. Hackers broke into the world's largest email marketing service and stole the names and email addresses of millions of Americans.
Target, Walgreens, Kroger, Best Buy, and Capital One are just a few of a growing list of companies affected by a major security breach. Epsilon, based in Dallas, TX, collects email address for companies, helping them stay in contact with their costumers. Hackers broke in last week and stole emails and names.
"It's massive the potential. I have no idea what the risk is, what the exposure is, but it's big." Tom Gallagher is with the Better Business Bureau, an agency that sees thousands of calls a year from people falling victim to email scams.
"We know that these random spam scams work or people wouldn't keep on doing it," said Gallagher.
Experts like VCU system's information professor Gurpreet Dhillon say you need to watch your inbox-- 6 months from now.
"You got to think like a criminal. If I get access to this kind of information. I'm not going to start attacking customers almost immediately because people are going to be vigilant," Dhillon said.
The crooks may eventually spam you. Sending fake emails from companies you know, asking for your personal information trying to scam money.
An email address made public -- may seem harmless, but the swindlers out there, are not.
"If you were a criminal that's a lot of information because you can do a lot of data diddling with it to figure out how am I going to abuse this information," said Dhillon.
So how do you spot a phony email? Watch out for warning phrases like "you have won" or "please verify your account", and companies will never ask for your social security number.
"It just proves again that we have to be very careful. the way that we share our personal information," said Gallagher.
Here's a list of companies involved in the security breach:
JP Morgan Chase
Home Shopping Network
Robert Half Technologies
Red Roof Inn
McKinsey & Company
New York & Company
The College Board
Barclays Bank of Delaware