published Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Biz Bulletin: Data breach at P.F. Chang hits Chattanooga restaurant

By Jim Winsett

Better Business Bureau has some suggestions for PF Chang’s customers who are concerned that their credit or debit cards may have been compromised by the recent news of a data breach. Thirty-three restaurants have been affected across the United States, with the restaurant in Chattanooga being on that list. Vulnerable dates for this location include Oct. 19, 2013, through June 11, 2014.

PF Chang’s has stated that they have contained the breach, and it is safe for consumers to use their credit and debit cards at restaurants again. But they do urge customers who may have been affected to continue to monitor accounts for any unauthorized charges. The investigation is ongoing at the moment. For more details regarding the security breach at PF Chang’s visit: http://www.pfchangs.com/security/.

Javelin Strategy & Research in their 2014 Identity Fraud Study noted that the number of identity fraud victims rose to 13.1 million people last year, and every one in three people who received a data breach notification letter ended up becoming an identity fraud victim. If you suspect that you may have had your information compromised, BBB suggests the following advice.

For those who paid with a credit card:

• Monitor your credit card statements carefully (many financial institutions allow you to see your statements online, so you can monitor them more frequently than just once a month).

• If you see a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately so the charge can be disputed and a new card issued.

• Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and which ones you did not.

For those who paid with a debit card:

• Do all of the above for credit cards, but pay very careful attention to your account, as debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards and debit transactions withdraw funds directly from your bank account. Contact your bank for more information, or you may want to pre-emptively request a new debit card or put a security block on your account.

For EVERYONE, not just those who may be affected by PF Chang’s security breach:

• Beware of scammers who will likely use this highly public event to purport to be from PF Chang’s, your bank or your credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem.

• Check before you click. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware designed to steal your identity.

• Don’t click on any email links or attachments unless you are absolutely certain the sender is authentic.

PF Chang’s highlights in their “frequently asked questions” section that they will not be sending out notifications to those potentially affected, because they do not have the necessary information in order to contact customers. They do note though that in a few cases they have emailed customers who had shared their emails with the company prior. Either way, it may be a good idea to be wary of any contact you receive from supposedly PF Chang’s regarding the security breach.

For all businesses that collect customer information:

• Make sure you protect your customers’ data. If a data breach can happen to a major retailer with significant data security measures in place, it can happen to any business.

• Check out BBB’s updated online guide Data Security – Made Simpler (http://www.bbb.org/data-security/) for free information on how to create a data security plan.

Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau of Chattanooga.

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