email problem

Millions of email addresses stolen by hackers - big email problem !

Email problem

Article first published 09-04-2011
During the process of opening a bank account, signing up for a credit card or, just, ordering some flowers on-line, you will be asked to provide your email address. No harm in that, is there? Well, you wouldn't think so, would you ?
Surely, any reputable business will implement security measures and take every precautionary step to protect their sensitive data - even, if, it is only, to prevent one of their competitors from getting hold of a mailing list of their customers ? They wouldn't want a competitor to be able to email all their clients with details of a cheaper/better service or, product !
BUT, what if, the company that you are signing up with, sub-contracts their mailing operation out to a third-party company. Will they be as keen to protect your data ? You'd hope so, because if they didn't, you wouldn't expect their customers to continue using their service !
The problem is, certain companies in particular market-places get such a foothold that it is very difficult for their rivals to compete with them and therefore, the company dominates that market-place. In other words, sometimes, its customers don't have a choice but to carry on using their service.
Epsilon is one such company. They are in the 'emailing' business and have many well-known clients - Barclaycard, Citibank, Marks & Spencer etc. who, are amongst 2,500 other clients who sub-contract their email marketing campaigns to Epsilon.
On 31st March, hackers broke into Epsilon's database and stole the names and email addresses of millions of people. Now, Epsilon's clients are
writing to their customers informing them of the security breach and warning them to be wary of future email Phishing scams.
I have received one such email from Marks & Spencer who advise me that my name and email address may have been stolen, but that, my account details have not. So, what ?
30+ years ago, when I used to knock on doors to earn a living, I used a little trick to give me some credibility and to put my potential customers at ease when I knocked on their door.
On the pretence that I would like to send them some literature through the post, I used to ask anyone that didn't slam the door in my face, if they objected to giving me their name. By the time I had given them my sales pitch for a couple of minutes, most of them were happy to - just to get rid of me !
Then, armed with this 'little' piece of information and their address - instead of knocking on the rest of the doors in the street and having to say: "Hello my name is.....and I represent....." etc. which the home-owner was used to hearing from door-to-door salesmen and when they did, without thinking, could rhyme off a 'stock-answer' designed to get rid of me quickly - I could knock on the door and say: "Hello, Mrs. Barnes from number 42 has asked me to call on you and tell you about....."
etc. - it works much better because it catches the potential customer off-guard. Relevance ?
When we open our emails, much in the same way as the 'stock-answer' is a natural reaction to having your door knocked and being approached by a salesman, most people react naturally by checking who the email is from and whether it is personally addressed before they decide whether to immediately bin it without reading it.
And, much in the same way as I had an advantage when I had the name and address of a neighbour because it enabled me to get over the first of the customer's objections ('their stock-answer'), someone sending you a Phishing email who has your email address and your 'real' name, has an advantage because it may stop you from binning it and cause you to read it and react !
So, for a while, everyone needs to take extra care when opening and reading their emails and to follow a few simple rules:-
We know that whoever stole the information from the data base of Epsilon has your full name and your email address but, they may also, know that you are a customer of (say) Marks & Spencer or, whoever the company who you are a customer of who sub-contracted their mailing to Epsilon so, for the time being, be very aware when reading your emails and don't attach any credibility to the fact that an email may be personally addressed to you and (may) appear to be from a company that you know, buy from, have shopped with in the past or, currently hold a customer account with.

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