Government warns of Equifax phishing scams

Government warns of Equifax phishing scams
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The government is warning Americans about scammers looking to capitalize on the recent Equifax data breach through fraudulent emails or phone calls. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an alert Thursday warning consumers to beware of phone calls from individuals purporting to be Equifax representatives asking for account or personal information.

“Don’t tell them anything,” the alert says. “That’s just one scam you might see after Equifax’s recent data breach.” 

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The Department of Homeland Security’s computer emergency readiness team distributed a related warning cautioning individuals “to be wary of calls or emails purporting to be from Equifax agents.” The government is directing individuals to report any fraudulent calls or emails to the FTC. 

Equifax, one of the leading U.S. credit-reporting firms, generated headlines last week when it revealed that a data breach earlier this year exposed personal information on as many as 143 million Americans to hackers. The personal information exposed includes Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses; roughly 200,000 U.S. consumers also had their credit card numbers exposed to hackers. 

The company has fallen under intense scrutiny as a result of the disclosure, with members of Congress demanding answers from top executives about the circumstances surrounding the breach. 

On Thursday, the FTC confirmed that it is investigating the breach, a rare move for the agency, which does not typically comment on ongoing probes.

Cyber criminals often try to leverage incidents attracting massive national attention, such as natural disasters, for gain. Late last month, Homeland Security sounded alarm about “malicious” cyber actors looking to capitalize on Hurricane Harvey by, for instance, sending phishing emails purporting to seek charity donation requests.