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Scammers Now Targeting Equifax Settlement Efforts

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upi.com
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Consumers in Florida are getting a heads-up about a new phishing scam, which is targeting people already victimized in a data breach of the credit monitoring company Equifax.

“I’m Ashley Moody; Florida’s Attorney General,” the online announcement begins. “We are issuing a consumer alert about scams targeting the victims of the Equifax data breach; the largest credit reporting data breach in our history.”

Moody is among 50 attorneys general in 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, who have reached a settlement with Equifax as the result of their 2017 investigation. A $600 million settlement was reached, $425 million of that going to a fund for the nearly half of all Americans affected.

“Our settlement requires Equifax to pay victims through a claims process,” said Moody. “A website is already in place to expedite claims; and already scammers are trying to exploit the process. They are sending phishing emails to drive targets to a fake claims page. The page will ask for Social Security numbers and other personal data.”

“Don’t fall for it.”

Floridians who feel they may have fallen for the phishing scheme should contact the attorney general’s office, at (866) 9NO-SCAM, or by visiting www.MyFloridaLegal.com. The same contacts apply when reporting a new scam, says Tammy Ward with the Better Business Bureau in Pensacola.

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Attorney General Ashley Moody.

“The data breaches are happening, I believe, at this point on a daily basis if not an hourly basis,” says Tammy Ward with the Better Business Bureau in Pensacola. “We just hear about all the ones that are actually happening out there.”

One sign you may be targeted by one a phishing scam, is getting a suspicious email from a dubious source. They may look legitimate — like from a credit card company — but it could be cut and paste. Look first at the return address or email address.

“For the most part if it doesn’t have anything to do with the accounting organization, it’s not going to be a legitimate email,” Ward said.

“You also want to look inside the email and look at the English that’s in there. Several times you’ll get messages that you can’t even understand if you actually read it out loud. It’s doesn’t make any sense.”

And as if there’s not enough to monitor through emails and social media, Ward says the bad guys are now using text messaging.

“We’ve had several calls saying, ‘I got this text from such-and-such bank; am I in trouble, do I need to respond to it?’” said Ward. “The first question we ask them is, ‘do you actually bank at that particular financial institution?’ And we have had people say ‘no;’ so we tell them, just delete the text.”

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Credit Dave Dunwoody WUWF Public Media
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Tammy Ward, Better Business Bureau, Pensacola.

Consumers are asked to find a bank statement they’ve received in the mail, then call their institution to see if it sent an email or text to them. When it comes to protecting your private data that’s used for online transactions, Ward says start by making sure the URL online begins with “https” and there’s a padlock icon to indicate a secure webpage.

“You also want to double-check the URL; there are several scammers out there now that will make one letter or one number different from the place that you actually want to go to,” Ward says. “And if you’re not careful you may be going to their site and not the site that you really want to be on.” 

Also, consumers should never respond to unsolicited emails asking for Social Security numbers, bank account details or other personal information.

Cyber-scamming is also an ongoing battle between the good guys and bad guys, and who can grab the technological high ground. But the BBB’s Tammy Ward says protecting yourself comes down -- to you.

“You don’t want to give you private information out to anyone, especially those unsolicited through a phone call or an email,” says Ward. “You want to make sure that your social media is basically locked down. And you want to make sure that any passwords that you have online – you change them frequently.”

More information can be found at www.bbb.org. Anyone who was a victim of the Equifax data breach and wants to file a claim should visit the official claims website – www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.