September 14, 2017 6:28 pm
Updated: September 15, 2017 4:02 pm

One week after massive Equifax hack, beware of phishing scams

The credit report company Equifax today revealed it was targeted by a major cyber-attack earlier this year. Equifax says hackers may have stolen personal information -- including social security and credit card numbers -- from as many as 143 million customers.

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In the wake of the Equifax data breach, which affected 143 million Americans and an unknown amount of Canadians, officials are warning people to be wary of calls purporting to be from the credit company.

A warning from the American Federal Trade Commission says a telephone phishing scam is just one of the ways scammers could use the news of the hack to trick you.

READ MORE: Equifax data breach: Only Canadians with dealings in U.S. likely affected


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“Ring, ring. ‘This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.’ Stop. Don’t tell them anything. They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue,” the warning from the FTC reads.

Equifax discovered the hack July 29 but waited until last Thursday to warn consumers that criminals exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.

But Equifax has said it will notify those affected by the hack by mail, not by phone.

The data breach made major headlines, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is examining and people in Canada and the U.S. are filing class action lawsuits.

READ MORE: Class action suits filed against Equifax for data breach, ‘bogus’ arbitration clause waived

And that’s the reason why scammers will use it to try to scare people into giving up their personal information.

“The scammers will try to look for vulnerabilities,” Jessica Johnson of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told Global News.

“So, anytime there’s something that makes big news, we’ll usually see [a new scam] within a week or two of a big story.”

Along with the Equifax hack, she said phishing scammers could be trying to capitalize on other news events, like the recent hurricanes, by pretending to be charities like the Red Cross.

READ MORE: Hurricane Harvey: Authorities warn of fraud, storm-related scams in wake of flooding

WATCH: Warnings about card skimming

She explained that phone call scams are harder to identify than email scams since the red flags (like bad grammar) are harder to see.

“When someone calls you and pretends to be Equifax, or even your bank … there’s really some due diligence on the consumer,” she said.

If you think the call is really from a legitimate company, offer to call back – but make sure to check for the phone number yourself, either online or in your records. That way you know you’re calling the official company.

The data breach is one of the more serious in recent history, because of the sensitive nature of the data, which included credit card numbers, social insurance numbers, and other financial data.

The company is reportedly telling Canadians who call its help line that unless you have dealings in the U.S., it’s not likely your information was compromised.

READ MORE: Equifax data breach: Only Canadians with dealings in U.S. likely affected

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) says it was partnered with Equifax on the auto organization’s identity protection program.

It is informing about 10,000 of its members that they may have had sensitive data compromised by the massive Equifax cybersecurity breach.

The organization says it has been trying since the first reports of the Equifax breach surfaced to determine if it affects any of the approximately 10,000 CAA members who signed up for the program.

It says Equifax has not provided any answers so far. Equifax Canada did not respond to requests from The Canadian Press.

— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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