Consumers are being urged once again to take a massive international data breach seriously — and deal with changing their passwords.

The Better Business Bureau issued a scam alert and suggested that consumers and businesses take some extra precautions.

Russian hackers reportedly stole 1.2 billion user names and passwords in Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites. The Hold Security website, based in Milwaukee, said this could be the largest security breach to date.

Large and small websites were hit, according to reports.

Bankers and others point out that this data breach has not directly hit credit cards or debit card accounts or online banking.

Instead, the breach involves computer passwords and user names. Typically, it would involve authentication credentials that a consumer would set up for accessing retail websites, banking sites and others.

But again, some password breaches could lead to more trouble down the line.

“You’ve got to be monitoring more. You’ve got to be more aware. Yes, you’re going to need to be changing your password,” said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of IDT911, which provides identity theft recovery services.

Credit reporting agency Equifax said consumers should change passwords immediately or consider closing some accounts. It’s also possible to place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit reports.

Given the latest warnings, it’s also wise to keep a closer watch on your financial statements for checking accounts, credit cards and the like.

Hold Security said on its site that some of the information obtained by hackers might not be useful.

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Some people use fake email addresses. Or hackers might have just stolen an email address or a password that a consumer no longer uses, maybe something connected to a previous employer.

“Yet the sheer number of credentials can potentially open a door to many systems and accounts,” Hold Security said.



Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at


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