Here are some of the scams – and how to protect yourself.
OK, this had to happen. It’s not a surprise. It’s just a fact of life. We live in a world of scammers, and when there is a crisis, for them, there’s opportunity. There are scams and frauds to take advantage of any crisis, its victims, and people trying to do the right thing. The Equifax hack is no exception. And the scams have already started.
“Don’t panic. But be vigilant,” suggests Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy at the Consumer Federation of America. “With this breach, criminals have everything they need to victimize you.”
I normally don’t post articles about consumer scams. But the Equifax hack has made 143 million Americans more vulnerable. So here are some of the scams you might encounter … and how to deal with them.
Equifax isn’t calling. Someone else is.
“This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” When you hear this on the phone, hang up, says Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission.
“Don’t tell them anything,” she says. “They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue.”
- Don’t give personal or financial information unless “you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.”
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers spoof numbers all the time.
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any key to speak to an operator. This will only trigger more robocalls.
Too late? You already gave out your info to a scammer? Immediately change passwords, account numbers if you can, and security questions. And check your accounts for strange stuff.
Fake news articles linking to fake Equifax websites.
“Immediately after the announcement of the data breach, articles began circulating that contained a link that lets you find out if your data was stolen,” according to a report by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). But the links lead to pages that are a phishing scam trying to collect your personal information.
In my articles on the Equifax hack, I verified every link to make sure it went to where it was supposed to go, including the link to Equifax where you can find out if your data was stolen, but you don’t need to “enroll” in anything despite the encouragement do so (used it myself).
But the ITRC warns that “it takes no work at all for scammers to create their own link, request your information for ‘verification’ purposes, and then steal your data.”
So before clicking on the link, hover over it with the mouse to display the URL and make sure it leads to the company’s website you’re trying to visit. Once on that page, and before entering any data, check the URL in the address bar in your browser to make sure it actually belongs to the company you want to reach.
Emailed phishing attacks have arrived.
The ITRC warns, “There are already scam emails in circulation that suggest you check your credit report by using their handy link.” This link will lead to a site where you’re asked to enter your most sensitive data, including Social Security number. Don’t go there. Delete the email.
And by the way, if you see an online ad to that effect, don’t click on it.
Instead, to get your free credit report, go to the FTC website. It shows you where and how to get your free credit report. You have a right to one free copy per 12-month period; you can get more, but you have to pay.
Be vigilant, but don’t panic.
The ITRC recommends: “Because genuine information was stolen, be extra diligent about monitoring your account statements, looking for unauthorized charges, tracking and reporting any suspicious activity, and keeping a close eye on your credit reports.”
“If you do experience any strange activity on your accounts, report it immediately, no matter how minor it might seem at first.”
And for crying out loud, never provide any data when asked in an emailed warning or alert to do so for “verification purposes.” For example, if your bank is Citibank, and you get an emailed warning from “Citibank” asking you to click here and provide your account number, etc., for “verification purposes,” delete the email. Then go to the Citibank website, log into your account, and if there is an alert, you will see it. Or call the Citibank number you’ve been using for years and find out.
We’re going to get swamped with this crap. The Equifax hack and the justified worries and fears resulting from it are a great opportunity for scammers to make a buck at consumers’ expense. There is no reason to panic. But we do need to be vigilant — more than ever before.
Carson Block – the short-seller who peeled back the layers covering up Valeant’s murky business schemes and crushed its shares and made a ton of money, was one of the 143 million Americans whose data was stolen in the Equifax hack. And he sued Equifax. Read… Lawsuits Against Equifax Pile Up. But Where Are the Handcuffs?
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