THE CONCERN: Only scammers could find a way to make bad news, like 143 million customers with compromised personal information, even worse. In the wake of the Equifax data breach, con artists are trying to capitalize on the upsetting situation.
All consumers, even those that have put an immediate fraud alert or credit freeze on their credit files, must be doubly vigilant. Scammers are already finding new ways to take advantage of the hack and the publicity surrounding it.
"Don't panic, because that is what the con artists want us to do." said Kimberly Thompson, Director of External Communications of the Better Business Bureau. "We just need to stay vigilant by asking questions and doing our research before making any decisions."
POSSIBLE SCAMS FROM THE DATA BREACH:
- Equifax phone scams. You may receive a call claiming to be Equifax wanting to verify your account information. Please note, even if your information was compromised in the breach, Equifax will not call you to confirm it. Just hang up the phone. If you stay on the line to speak to a representative, the caller will try to get you to provide personal information. If it is a robocall, do not press 1 to remove yourself from the list. Also, never trust Caller ID. Scammers can spoof numbers to make it seem as if a trusted caller is on the other end.
- Phishing emails or texts. These fake emails and texts will appear to be from Equifax or from financial institutions. Scammers will use your real information in an attempt to get additional details and since they have some of your real data, it may be more difficult to spot the fraud. The email may urge you to click on a link or open a PDF file to check your account or verify a transaction. By doing so, you could be downloading malicious software on your computer that would allow the crook to hijack your system or record your keystrokes. The best advice is to assume any such communication is suspect. If you get an email that you believe may be legitimate, visit the company's website or call their toll-free number. NEVER click the links in unsolicited emails or text messages.
- Fake Equifax websites. After the hack, Equifax created a website for consumers, equifaxsecurity2017.com. It has been found that several phony websites have been developed with very similar web addresses to the true site in order deceive consumers. One such site, simply inverted the first two words, causing confusion until it was discovered. A day after the breach and launch of the legitimate help website, scammers had created 194 phishing websites that shared similar addresses with equifaxsecurity2017.com. ALWAYS verify a website before using it.
- Tax identity theft. The Internal Revenue Service has been fighting tax identity theft for years. These scams involve criminals getting victims' names, addresses and Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax refund claims. To avoid a fraudster filing a tax return in your name, file your tax returns next year as early as you can.
If you are informed that more than one return was filed in your name; that you owe additional tax; or that IRS records indicate that you earned more than the amount of wage you reported, take immediate action. What action should you take? File a police report and a fraud report with the FTC Identity Theft Hotline (877-438-4338). Also complete IRS form 14039, the Identity Theft Affidavit. You may be forced to file your tax returns on paper in the meantime. If you do not get a prompt response from the IRS, call the Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490 for assistance.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
For more information about the Equifax breach, visit their website or see the Federal Trade Commission's advice.
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