Would You Like a Side of Fraud with That? What Your Organization Should Learn from the McDonald’s (and Walgreens) Breaches


Last week McDonald’s Corp. and Walgreen Co. notified customers that their personal information had been compromised by hackers. The hackers appear to have targeted an email provider subcontracted to a marketing firm used by both McDonald’s and Walgreens. What’s different about these incidents? They involved consumers’ contact information, but not Social Security numbers, financial account numbers or other information that generally triggers notification obligations under breach notice laws. So why did McDonald’s and Walgreens notify their consumers of these breaches? Because the stolen contact information was reportedly used to send consumers phishing emails that invited them to provide additional personal information that could be used to commit identity theft and fraud.

What Happened?

Phishing emails, which look like they are sent by a reputable company and perhaps a company with which the consumer has a relationship or account, are sent by fraudsters who hope the recipients will provide them with additional personal information that can be used to commit identity theft or access consumers’ financial resources. The most typical method is to include in the email a link to a website, which also appears to be that of a reputable company, and present a seemingly legitimate request, such as verifying account information or signing up for a discount. In the course of responding, the consumer is asked to provide a Social Security number, financial account number, or login credentials to access an account, not realizing that they are providing the information to an unauthorized third party rather than a legitimate business.

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