How to Avoid New Equifax Scams

The Equifax breach might have given scammers a treasure trove of personal details about you that they can use in all sorts of ways to steal your identity, money and make your life miserable.

Now there are warnings of the potential for a host of scams, such as new variations of telephone and email scams and an increase in tax identity theft attacks.

Earlier this month, Equifax said hackers previously had broken through its digital defenses to gain access to personal information, including Social Security numbers, names and birthdates, for an estimated 143 million Americans. Nearly 4 million are in New Jersey.

Check out the video below to find out how to freeze your child's credit, and the video above for tips on how to protect yourself from the breach.

"This is incredibly serious," said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of CyberScout, and a former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

Equifax "collects enormous amounts of information about each and every one of us. ... In this case, you're talking about everything you would need to commit every kind of identity theft known to humanity," he said.

 

Here are five things to watch out for:

1. Equifax phone scams. You may receive a call that says "this is Equifax calling to verify your account information." On its blog, the Federal Trade Commission recently warned consumers that Equifax will never call you out of the blue. "It's a scam," the FTC said.

Just hang up the phone. If it's a robocall, don't press 1 or anything else to remove yourself from the list. And don't trust Caller ID. Scammers can spoof numbers to help make it seem as if a trusted caller is calling you.

2. Another round of fake IRS calls. Fraudsters may use the information from the Equifax hack to make it seem that the call you receive from the fake IRS guy is real. For instance, the caller may have your Social Security number and say you owe money, said Frankie Corrado, financial life guide with Blue Blaze Financial Advisors in Holmdel.

"I think there is going to be a higher propensity of scammer phone calls," Corrado said. "If someone is not really aware, they can get caught up on it and really be taken for a ride."

Once again, just hang up on the call.

3. Fake emails or texts. These emails and texts, which could seem as if they come from Equifax or other companies, will look like the real thing, Levin said. Scammers may only have some of your personal information and will try to get more.

You may be asked to click on links to verify personal information or details. "They look to finish the mosaic," Levin said. "They will look to get more information that ... they will use to commit more sinister forms of identity theft."

Never click on links in emails or text messages.

4. Fake Equifax websites. Earlier this week, USA Today reported that Equifax had been sending victims to of its breach to a bogus website. After the hack, Equifax created a website for consumers, equifaxsecurity2017.com.

But a developer later started securityequifax2017.com., inverting the first two works. In a series of tweets, Equifax sent users to the wrong website before correcting the mistake.

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

5. Tax identity theft. Armed with your Social Security number, a fraudster may try to file a tax return in your name to obtain a refund at tax time. One solution: try to file your tax returns next year as early as you can.

Consumer advocates suggest that you file a request to freeze your credit with each credit bureau -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- to keep criminals from opening accounts or credit cards in your name. Other longstanding measures also apply.

Protect your personal information. Be careful what you share on social media sites like Facebook. Never give out information to unknown callers on the phone. Check your bank and credit card accounts so you can flag any suspicious transactions.

Obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus if you haven't already received one.

If you get a letter from a collection agency, don't just dismiss it, Levin said. Ask for a proof of claim so you can find out whether the debt is real or a sign that you've been victimized by identity theft.

"It is remaining vigilant," Corrado said. "It is not trusting anything. Never give out personal information. Never give out anything."

 

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