by: Lynn A. Toops, Attorney
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works hard to protect consumers against unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. Not only does the FTC monitor companies to ensure that they do not violate these consumer protection rules, it also assists consumers and local law enforcement whenever breaches do occur.
Just last week, the FTC filed suit safe.jpgagainst Wyndham Hotels for failing to protect consumers’ personal and confidential information, including consumers’ payment card account information, from hackers. Wyndham Hotels’ data security failures led to fraudulent charges of over $10 million on consumers’ accounts. Wyndham Hotels includes Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, and Travelodge. Sound familiar? These hotels join a long list of companies–Sony, Zappos, LinkedIn–that have put their consumers’ confidential and personal information into the hands of hackers.
In today’s Internet-driven world (what product or service can’t we buy online these days?), it’s overwhelming to think how many companies possess your, or even your children’s, personal identification information. It’s even more overwhelming to think of how many of those companies don’t adequately protect that crucial information from hackers and thieves.
Before you give your information to a company, you should take some time to consider what they are going to do with that information and how they may safeguard it. Consumers should also ask themselves, “What can I do to protect my data?”
The FTC suggests several steps that consumers can take to minimize the risk of their personal information falling into the wrong hands.

1. Be vigilant about who can gain access to your personal information. Don’t just put your bank statements and credit card bills in the trash–shred them!
2. Review your credit card statements and monitor your credit report for any suspicious activity. You can get a free credit report each year by visiting
3. Protect yourself further by placing a fraud alert on your credit report. Doing this will require potential new creditors to contact you to confirm your identity and intent to apply for credit.

For more tips, watch the FTC’s video “Deter, Detect & Defend” about protecting yourself against identity theft.

Lynn Toops represents consumers in class actions against companies who have let their consumers’ personal and confidential information fall into the hands of hackers.