Scam Alert – Equifax Data Breach
Equifax, one of the nation’s three major consumer credit-reporting agencies, recently announced a major data breach that could affect about 143 million American customers. Because Equifax is used by many businesses which conduct credit checks, the potential impact is huge. Equifax is used by landlords, utility companies, potential employers as well as lenders to verify credit histories. We do not know if any of our customers’ data has been compromised as a result of this breach, but we want to make sure that you are aware. You can confirm whether you are at risk by going to this website, https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ and by watching for information from Equifax.
Equifax has indicated that from mid-May through July of this year hackers gained access to customers’ names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers of about 209,000 consumers, and personal information in credit file dispute documents for about 182,000 consumers were also accessed.
What can you do? The following are steps that you can utilize to help protect against identity theft:
Step 1: Enroll in Equifax’s program (or just move on to Step 2)
Equifax’s identity protection program, Trusted ID, is being offered to anyone who wants to enroll. The program is designed to help prevent identity theft and tampering with your credit. If you’re willing to give Equifax another chance, you can sign up for the program here. But, be aware: the checker that lets you know if you were hacked might be broken and enrolling in the program prevents you from participating in a class-action lawsuit against Trusted ID, but doesn’t prevent you from participating in lawsuits related to the cyber-attack.
Because of these circumstances, we recommend that, for now. Anyone with a credit history should assume they were affected by the hack.
Step 2: Check your credit reports
More than three months passed between the time the breach may have started and now. We’re not sure if the data of those affected was used maliciously during that period, so consider looking through your credit reports for any suspicious activity. The US government guarantees everyone a free annual credit report from the three major bureaus — yes, including Experian. You can access the reports at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
When looking through your reports, keep an eye out for new accounts you didn’t open, late payments on debts you don’t recognize and any other activity that looks unfamiliar.
If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit cards, take on loans, or reopen closed accounts, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. You are not responsible for charges made on a fraudulent card, but you have to report the issue in a timely manner. Once you’ve reported the fraudulent credit, follow this guide to recovering from identity theft.
Step 3: Freeze your credit
It’s still early days, so even if your credit report comes back clean, remain vigilant about protecting your credit. One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what’s called a “credit freeze.”
When you freeze your credit, you (or anyone masquerading as you) will be required to unfreeze your account by providing the PIN you got when you froze your credit.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
Experian: 1 888 397 3742
The process is usually automated and can be completed within a few minutes. Just be sure to keep your PINs secure.
Step 4: Set a fraud alert
A fraud alert is another way to make it hard for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. That, combined with the credit freeze, is a great way to keep your credit secure.
To set a fraud alert, contact just one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once the alert is set, it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it. Here are the appropriate phone numbers for the bureaus:
Step 5: Repeat the process for your loved ones
Because Equifax is not notifying those affected through direct mail or email, some people will be left without the resources or tech savvy to protect their identities or find out if they were compromised. With that in mind, consider helping your loved ones — especially the elderly without computer access — with the above steps.
Lastly, watch out for tax season.
It’s still too early to know if and how the data exposed in Equifax’s breach will be misused, but one major concern comes around during tax season. Identity thieves can use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds.
Stop. Think. Connect.
Stop.Think.Connect.TM is a national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online.
Cyber threats affecting you, your family, and members of your community include:
- Identity Theft
- Fraud and Phishing
- Cyber Bullying and Ethics
- Cyber Predators
If you have more questions or would like to learn more about cyber security, please visit the Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign from the Department of Homeland Security. You’ll find great materials and helpful tips on cyber security.
Tips for Banking Safely
We love our Facebook fans, but remember, banking safely is a top priority to us at FNB! Please note that Facebook is a social network and personal financial information should never be disclosed.
We also want to remind you that FNB will never contact you via text message, phone call, or e-mail and ask you for your account information, passwords, debit/ATM card number, PIN number, etc. If you didn’t initiate the call, e-mail or text, then please do not share your personal information. If you ever receive any suspicious communication that appears to be from FNB about your account, please contact your FNB Banking Center immediately.
Together, we can do our part to eliminate identity theft.
Protecting Against Investment Scams on the Internet
The Internet has become the communication channel of choice for many investors. It is a convenient way to communicate with investment providers and investigate investment opportunities.
The Internet has also become a popular place for thieves and scam artists to find victims.
- Emails promoting investment ideas can be sent to millions of people very cheaply instead of cold calling over the phone or using regular mail.
- Fraudsters can lure investors by building websites that looks very similar to legitimate ones.
- Investment newsletters claiming to provide honest and unbiased advice have become popular as illegal vehicles for some promoters to hype specific stocks.
- Online bulletin boards may have messages from those trying to promote a stock with “inside” or “secret” information about a company’s results or new products.
Using the Internet Wisely
It is always important to get the facts before making an investment. The Internet can make it difficult to distinguish between facts and what someone what you believe are facts.
- Never make an investment only based on what you may have read in an online newsletter or from an online bulletin board posting.
- Be very wary of small or very thinly traded stocks you read about on the Internet.
- Beware of companies that do not file regular reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. You can access the SEC’s database of reports at www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml.
- Be wary of offshore investment ideas, especially if they involve some form of tax avoidance.
- Do not be lured by promises of high returns with no risk or very little risk.
- Be wary of ideas that promise fast returns.
- Be wary of investments in alternative investments like commodities, real estate, coins, artwork or gemstones.
- If you see words like “guarantee, high return, limited offer or safe as a CD”, be very careful.
Common Types of Internet Investment Scams
The Securities and Exchange Commission reports that most Internet scams follow the same formats that have been around for years. Here is a portion of an article from the SEC’s website:
- The “Pump And Dump” Scam
It’s common to see messages posted online that urge readers to buy a stock quickly or tell you to sell before the price goes down. Often the writers will claim to have “inside” information about an impending development or to use an “infallible” combination of economic and stock market data to pick stocks. In reality, they may be insiders or paid promoters who stand to gain by selling their shares after the stock price is pumped up by gullible investors. Once these fraudsters sell their shares and stop hyping the stock, the price typically falls and investors lose their money. Fraudsters frequently use this ploy with small, thinly-traded companies because it’s easier to manipulate a stock when there’s little or no information available about the company.
- The Pyramid
Be wary of messages that read: “How To Make Big Money From Your Home Computer!!!” One online promoter claimed that investors could “turn $5 into $60,000 in just three to six weeks.” In reality, this program was nothing more than an electronic version of the classic “pyramid” scheme in which participants attempt to make money solely by recruiting new participants into the program.
- The “Risk-Free” Fraud
“Exciting, Low-Risk Investment Opportunities” to participate in exotic-sounding investments – such as wireless cable projects, prime bank securities, and eel farms – have been offered through the Internet. But no investment is risk-free. And sometimes the investment products touted do not even exist – they’re merely scams. Be wary of opportunities that promise spectacular profits or “guaranteed” returns. If the deal sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Off-shore Frauds
At one time, off-shore schemes targeting U.S. investors cost a great deal of money and were difficult to carry out. Conflicting time zones, differing currencies, and the high costs of international telephone calls and overnight mailings made it difficult for fraudsters to prey on U.S. residents. But the Internet has removed those obstacles. Be extra careful when considering any investment opportunity that comes from another country, because it’s difficult for U.S. law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute foreign frauds.
Using Common Sense
- Skepticism and common sense should play large roles in evaluating investment ideas found on the Internet. Here are two questions to always ask:
- Does this sound too good to be true?
- What makes me so lucky to get this offer?
Money Smart – A Financial Education Program
Alexander Pope once famously noted “To err is human.” We all make mistakes. But those mistakes can be costly if they involve overdrawing your bank account.
The following is a list of top tips to help you to avoid paying overdraft fees:
- Keep your check register up to date by recording all transactions to your register when you conduct the transaction. Transactions that are often overlooked include electronic transactions such as ATM withdrawals and ACH items that you authorized to be deducted from your account (think utility bills). Be sure to record those transactions as well.
- Monitor your balances. You can access your accounts through online banking, mobile banking and through Info24 banking. Furthermore, you can always call us and we can provide you your account balances.
- Reconcile your monthly statement. While this task may seem daunting at first, it is relatively easy and once you understand how to reconcile your statement, the process is fairly simple. Additionally, if you need help reconciling your statement, we are always here to assist you.
- Link other accounts to your checking account to cover overdrafts. FNB allows you to link accounts to your checking account to cover overdrafts. While there is a small fee to make the transfer, it is much less than a non-sufficient funds fee or an automatic overdraft fee.
- Determine if overdraft privilege is a service that you can manage. Not everyone can manage their overdraft privilege. For some, it may be better to have the transaction returned than overdrawing the account. You can always contact the bank and opt out of any overdraft privilege service.
In addition to the tips above, there are several online resources available to help assist you with managing your money. One of the online resources is called Money Smart which is offered by the FDIC. Money Smart is designed to help individuals develop and polish their financial skills. The Money Smart curriculum is free and the FDIC offers four versions of the program:
- An instructor-led version for adults in nine different languages;
- An instructor-led version for young adults (12 – 20 years old);
- A Computer-Based online version; and
- A portable MPE version called Money Smart Podcast Network