Protecting yourself

What PlayStation gamers should do to protect their real world finances

Daniel Ray

I bet when you signed up to play KillZone or another game online on your PlayStation, you didn’t think there would be any real life danger.

Now you know differently.

Sony, which runs the PlayStation network, announced Tuesday that between April 17 and April 19, data from its 77 million account holders was “compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network.” The breach includes names, email addresses and possibly credit card numbers.

PlayStation breach creates chance of ID theft

According to the database of data breaches kept by the organization Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, this is the third largest data breach ever, behind only the Heartland data breach of 2009 (more than 130 million records) and the TJX stores (100 million records) breach discovered in 2007.

The breach doesn’t just affect those who use PlayStation’s online games; some people use PlayStation as the platform to play NetFlix and Hulu online features through Sony’s Qriocity network.

For now, the gaming system remains dark. As Sony put it in a statement, “These malicious actions have also had an impact on your ability to enjoy the services provided by PlayStation Network and Qriocity including online gaming and online access to music, movies, sports and TV shows. We have a clear path to have PlayStation Network and Qriocity systems back online, and expect to restore some services within a week.”

Early today, Hulu sent its Plus account users a one-week credit on their subscriptions to make up for the “frustrating” PlayStation outage.

As for consumers whose credit card numbers may have been breached, if we were still using the old color-coded terror alert system, this would be the equivalent of going to “orange alert” — an attack on your bank account may not be certain, but there is a high risk and you should redouble your vigilance.

A thief with your credit card information can quickly run up charges without your knowledge. So monitor your card’s activity by carefully reading your monthly statement, or going online to see the activity.

Under federal law, you’re only liable for the first $50 of improper charges, though major card issuers have imposed more generous “zero liability” policies to further protect you.
As a practical matter, any suspicious charges can also trigger a card issuer’s fraud detection programs, which could cause them to be shut down. If you use your card regularly whether to pay your gym bill automatically, book travel or rent a car — your life will become more difficult unless you have a backup card. If you’re really worried (and don’t intend to take out any new loans), consider a credit freeze, which will prevent new credit from being extended to you.

You should also ratchet up your level of suspicion toward unsolicited offers you receive by email or phone. The fraudsters know who you bank with, and so they can create more plausible-sounding, targeted phishing offers — spear-phishing, it’s called.
In short, raise your level of vigilance, watch those account statements carefully and take action quickly by calling your card issuer if you suspect any misdeeds.

Sony quickly shut down its PlayStation network after the breach, but has been criticized for being slow to disclose that credit card information could have been exposed.

To its credit, in the email it sent to customers on Tuesday, the company gave lots of useful information on how its account holders should act to protect themselves.

One of my co-workers is a fan of PlayStation’s popular “Call of Duty” game, and received the email late Tuesday evening:

Valued PlayStation Network/Qriocity Customer:

We have discovered that between April 17 and April 19, 2011, certain PlayStation Network and Qriocity service user account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our network. In response to this intrusion, we have:

1) Temporarily turned off PlayStation Network and Qriocity services;

2) Engaged an outside, recognized security firm to conduct a full and complete investigation into what happened; and

3) Quickly taken steps to enhance security and strengthen our network infrastructure by rebuilding our system to provide you with greater protection of your personal information.

We greatly appreciate your patience, understanding and goodwill as we do whatever it takes to resolve these issues as quickly and efficiently as practicable.

Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided: name, address (city, state, zip), country, email address, birthdate, PlayStation Network/Qriocity password and login, and handle/PSN online ID. It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address (city, state, zip), and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained. If you have authorized a sub-account for your dependent, the same data with respect to your dependent may have been obtained. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility. If you have provided your credit card data through PlayStation Network or Qriocity, out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained.

For your security, we encourage you to be especially aware of email, telephone and postal mail scams that ask for personal or sensitive information. Sony will not contact you in any way, including by email, asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. If you are asked for this information, you can be confident Sony is not the entity asking. When the PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are fully restored, we strongly recommend that you log on and change your password. Additionally, if you use your PlayStation Network or Qriocity user name or password for other unrelated services or accounts, we strongly recommend that you change them as well.

To protect against possible identity theft or other financial loss, we encourage you to remain vigilant, to review your account statements and to monitor your credit reports. We are providing the following information for those who wish to consider it:     – U.S. residents are entitled under U.S. law to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit or call toll-free (877) 322-8228.

– We have also provided names and contact information for the three major U.S. credit bureaus below.  At no charge, U.S. residents can have these credit bureaus place a “fraud alert” on your file that alerts creditors to take additional steps to verify your identity prior to granting credit in your name. This service can make it more difficult for someone to get credit in your name. Note, however, that because it tells creditors to follow certain procedures to protect you, it also may delay your ability to obtain credit while the agency verifies your identity. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts on your file. Should you wish to place a fraud alert, or should you have any questions regarding your credit report, please contact any one of the agencies listed below:

Experian: 888-397-3742;; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013 Equifax: 800-525-6285;; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 TransUnion: 800-680-7289;; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

– You may wish to visit the website of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at or reach the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 or 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580 for further information about how to protect yourself from identity theft. Your state Attorney General may also have advice on preventing identity theft, and you should report instances of known or suspected identity theft to law enforcement, your State Attorney General, and the FTC. For North Carolina residents, the Attorney General can be contacted at 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001; telephone (877) 566-7226; or For Maryland residents, the Attorney General can be contacted at 200 St. Paul Place, 16th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202; telephone: (888) 743-0023; or

We thank you for your patience as we complete our investigation of this incident, and we regret any inconvenience. Our teams are working around the clock on this, and services will be restored as soon as possible. Sony takes information protection very seriously and will continue to work to ensure that additional measures are taken to protect personally identifiable information. Providing quality and secure entertainment services to our customers is our utmost priority. Please contact us at 1-800-345-7669 should you have any additional questions.


Sony Computer Entertainment and Sony Network Entertainment

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