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Equifax warning: These phone calls and messages are NOT from Equifax, they are scams

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Alex Thomas Sadler, Clark.com

After Equifax failed to secure financial and other sensitive information belonging to 143 million U.S. consumers, it’s no surprise that Americans are concerned — very concerned, in fact.

And, unfortunately, whenever there’s heightened awareness around any big news or event, it is pretty much guaranteed that the criminals are hard at work.

So, in addition to worrying about whether or not your information was exposed to criminals the worst data breach in modern American history, you also need to be on the lookout for scams.

RELATED: Equifax data breach: What information was leaked in the hack?

Beware of scams related to the Equifax breach!

The Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating the breach, issued a warning to consumers on Thursday — posting a fraud alert on its website urging people to beware of Equifax-related scams that are already surfacing in various forms.

For example, criminals are using a simple phone scam to fool consumers into handing over their personal info.

According to the FTC, it goes something like this:

  1. Ring, ring.
  2. You: “Hello?”
  3. Person on the other end: “This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.”

That’s when you HANG UP! Equifax will not call you. No matter what the person says or whom he or she claims to be, do not give out any information. Just hang up.

According to Equifax, the company is sending notifications through the mail to anyone whose information was exposed in the data leak.

The FTC also provided the following tips on how to spot and avoid these types of phone scams:

  • Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any 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 can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
  • If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

If you get a phone call that you think may be fake, you can report it online to the FTC. Any information the FTC can get about these bogus calls and scams can help the group find the criminals responsible for them.

If you get a phone call like this and you’re very concerned about it, you can always try calling Equifax directly at 1-866-447-7559.

A few examples of Equifax scams to watch out for:

  • Emails asking for your personal information
  • Text message alerts asking for your personal information
  • Any type of message or notification asking you to update your personal information
  • Websites claiming to have “inside” information about the breach
  • Websites that claim they can give you more info about the breach for a fee

RELATED: Credit Freeze Guide: The best way to protect yourself against identity theft

How to spot common scams coming after your info

With millions of Americans worried about the security of their information, hackers are preying on that fear and will use every trick in the book in order to try and steal your information!

There’s one specific common theme among most scams that are successful in stealing people’s information: 

The message, alert or request has a very clear sense of urgency — like if you don’t respond or act now, something bad may happen or your information will be at risk.

Criminals use this tactic to get you to act before you have time to really think about what you’re handing over and to whom.

As a way to get you to hand over info, the FTC says scammers “might say your account will be frozen, you’ll fail to get a tax refund, your boss will get mad, even that a family member will be hurt or you could be arrested. They tell lies to get to you to give them information.”

So make sure to take a step back and think about whatever it is that is supposedly so “urgent.” And never respond to any message or alert that gives you any ounce of suspicion — it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

More tips to help you protect yourself, your money and your identity:

  • Be wary of unexpected emails containing links or attachments: If you receive an unexpected email claiming to be from a credit agency, your bank or any other company that has your personal information, don’t click on any of the links or attachments. It could be a scam. Instead, log in to your account separately to check for any new notices.
  • Call the company directly: If you aren’t sure whether an email notice is legit, call the company directly about the information/notification to find out if it is real and if there is anything urgent you should know about.
  • Never provide your personal information (Social Security number, bank account/credit card number) on an unsecured website: If you do end up on a website that asks for your personal information, make sure it is a secure website, which will have “https” at the beginning (“s” indicates secure).
  • Look out for grammar and spelling errors: Scam emails often contain typos and other errors — which is a big red flag that it probably didn’t come from a legitimate source.
  • Never respond to a text message from a number you don’t recognize: If it’s a scam, it could also make any information stored in your phone vulnerable to hackers. Do some research to find out who and where the text came from.
  • Don’t call back unknown numbers: If you get a missed call from a number you don’t recognize, don’t call it back! Try searching the number to find out more information.
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