Leave it to Criminals to Kick You When You're Down
In the wake of the Equifax Data Breach, consumers are justifiably fearful of their financial security and how the stolen information could be used against them. This fear, however, is creating an opportunity for scammers to extract even more information from consumers, or to make new victims by stealing information from people who are not part of the original security breach.
Consumers are reporting scammers posing as Equifax employees and contacting them about the data breach. The scam may come in the form of an e-mail, a phone call, or even a text message and asks that you "verify your account information" with Equifax to ensure your credit file is protected.
A public statement from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) emphatically states that Equifax will never contact you and ask you for your information. If someone does, you can be sure it is a scam. “They’re not from Equifax. It's a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue. If you gave your personal information to an imposter, it’s time to change any compromised passwords, account numbers or security questions. And if you’re concerned about identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how you can protect yourself."
There is No Consequence for Ignoring the Call
Even if the person is actually from Equifax, the consequences of ignoring them is small. Absolute worst-case scenario, you will get an official summons to appear in court and you will have an opportunity to explain to a likely sympathetic judge who is on your side.
Why is the judge likely on your side? Because the judge (or a family member) also had their information stolen in the Equifax breach and is probably just as pissed off as you are.
More likely, however, any potential negative side of ignoring the person will be taken care of by you simply protecting yourself in other ways. You have more power to protect yourself at this point than Equifax does. Start by visiting the government website above and checking your credit reports. Keep watch for new accounts you didn't apply to, possibly freeze your credit, and set up fraud alerts with the credit bureaus and your financial institutions.
In just a few minutes a week, you can move toward financial independence. Each week you will receive a simple action item to take to improve your financial situation. Visit our challenge page and commit to build your financial plan one week at a time.
Joshua Escalante Troesh is a tenured professor of Business at El Camino College and the founder of Purposeful Finance. His career, including as a former credit union Vice President of Marketing, offers insight into what the Equifax data breach means for consumers. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.