Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik are currently investigating recent reports of data breaches involving Ralph’s/Kroger and Stanford University. The breach occurred at the big-three credit bureau Equifax, Inc. (NYSE:EFX) and affects both current and former employees of grocery retailer The Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) and Stanford University.
Kroger Co. is a grocery retailer that does business through a chain of popular grocery stores including QFC, Fred Meyer and Ralphs. Kroger Co. notified employees about the data breach in a letter sent out May 5, 2016 that advised them of the situation. It noted that there was an apparent data breach perpetrated by unknown individuals. These unknown individuals apparently accessed the company’s [Equifax’s] W-2 Express website through the use of default log-in information that was based on a combination of Social Security numbers (SSN) and birth dates.
The W-2Express service is a service provided by Equifax to larger employers like Kroger Co. in order to provide electronic access to employee W-2 forms through the Equifax website. The site database currently has more than 431,000 current and former Kroger employees registered. Data accessed on the site included W2 forms (listing SSNs, addressed, and salaries).
As pointed out by Dailey, the spokesman for Kroger, the popular grocery store chain conglomerate is not the only company to rely on Equifax for electronic access to employee W2 information; nor are they the only company to rely on a combination of SSN and birth date to access the data. Dailey even surmised that it could be the standard setup Equifax relies on for the system.
One month previous to the Kroger/Equifax data breach, Stanford University notified 3,500 of their current and former employees of a similar problem when their data was accessed for purposes of identity theft through the W-2Express database run by Equifax. Northwestern University had a similar issue with 300 employees’ salary and tax data files being accessed through Equifax’s W-2Express portal as well. W-2 data is particularly valuable to thieves interested in identity theft because it contains a large portion of the information they need to request fraudulent tax refunds.
If you have concerns regarding a potential breach of your personal information and you need to discuss your rights with an experienced attorney, please contact us at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik. We are a leader in our field, experienced and knowledgeable in the representation of employees and consumers who have become victims of data breaches and other labor code violations. Visit our site or contact us directly for more information about how we obtained over $1.3 billion in awards through the course of our long and successful track record in the industry.