Beware of fake settlement sites for Equifax data breach

Beware of fake settlement sites for Equifax data breach
Because of a massive data breach in 2017, Equifax is paying out settlements to people may have had their information compromised. This image is what the official website looks like. (Source: Equifax.com)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse. By simply searching their name, members of the public can learn if they’re among the 147 million people now entitled to a cut of $425 million.

However, the Federal Trade Commission says it may be better for people looking to cash in to slow their roll.

Just days after Equifax set up a website where consumers can check if they’re entitled to part of the cash settlement, fraudulent web pages meant to look like the real thing popped up across the internet.

These scammers are on the prowl for personal information not needed to verify eligibility for part of the settlement.

Not sure if your information was exposed? Check your eligibility here.

If your information was exposed in the data breach, click here to file a claim.

HOW TO SPOT A FAKE SITE

  • You’ll never have to pay to file a claim for these benefits.
  • Anyone who calls and tries to get you to file a claim is almost certainly a scammer.
  • See any distorted or pixelated images? Often times, internet criminals don’t take the time to crop or resize their images properly.
  • Watch out for spelling and grammatical errors. Legitimate businesses can make mistakes, but if a website is full of errors, it’s likely a scam.

All affected consumers can apply for compensation of up to $125 or get free credit monitoring. However it’s important to keep an eye on the qualifier “up to,” and know the limitations of the settlement. The compensation you apply for may not be what you end up with.

Personal finance website NerdWallet estimated there would need to be no more than 248,000 approved claims out of the 147 million consumers affected — or less than one-fifth of 1% — for approved applicants to get the full $125. Based on the response so far, those who opt to get cash would see a “very small amount” that would be “nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed,” according to an update sent out by the FTC after the initial announcement of the settlement.

People who already submitted a claim for the alternative cash payment can change their mind. The settlement administrator will be sending an email to those who chose the cash option with information on how to switch to free credit monitoring if they wish. Consumers can also send an email to change their claim request.

Click the link here to get help answering any of the following questions about navigating the Equifax data breach settlement offer:

What value do you get from free monitoring?

What is the likely value if I get cash?

Is there a filing deadline?

When will I get my benefits?

What if I have breach-related losses later?

How can I protect myself now?

The Better Business Bureau also provided tips on what consumers can do to immediately protect themselves after a data breach.

1.) Stay calm. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent charges on stolen account numbers.

2.) Check with the website of the company that was breached for the latest information. Type the company name directly into your browser. Do NOT click on a link from an email or social media message.

3.) If a credit card has been compromised, you will likely hear from the bank or card-issuer first. If you have questions, call the customer service number on your card.

4.) Consider putting a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies. A credit freeze will prevent anyone from accessing your credit report or scores. This means you cannot apply for new credit without lifting the freeze. A fraud alert flags your account but does not automatically halt new credit being opened in your name.

5.) AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to provide you with a free annual credit report. Be wary of ads, emails, and social media messages for other services. Everyone should check their credit reports annually, whether or not they have been the victim of a data breach.

6.) If your credit card(s) has been breached:

  • Monitor your credit card statements carefully (go online; don’t wait for the paper statement).
  • If you see a fraudulent charge, report it to your bank or credit card issuer immediately so the charge can be reversed and a new card issued.
  • Keep receipts in case you need to prove which charges you authorized and which ones you did not.

7.) If your debit card has been breached:

  • Do all of the above as for credit cards, but pay very careful attention to your account. Debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards and debit transactions withdraw funds directly from your bank account.
  • Contact your bank for more information, or if you want to pre-emptively request a new debit card or put a security block on your account.

8.) Beware of scammers who may purport to be from the retailer, your bank, or your credit card issuer, telling you that your card was compromised and suggesting actions to “fix” the problem. Phishing emails may attempt to fool you into providing your credit card information, or ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can download malware onto your computer.

The Equifax settlement is the largest data breach enforcement action in history, and includes the Consumer Restitution Fund of up to $425 million—with $300 million dedicated to consumer redress and an additional $125 million which will be made available if the $300 million is exhausted.

Another $175 million payment will go to states, from which Louisiana will receive over $3 million. Equifax has also agreed to take several steps to assist consumers who are either facing identity theft issues or who have already had their identities stolen.

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