COVID + Credit: Top Five Consumer Cyber Security FAQs
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The Covid-19 crisis is affecting many aspects of our lives, and protecting your credit is a critical part of navigating these challenging times. Security researchers have reported that hackers and scammers are using Covid-19 to target both individuals and companies. You may have already seen these attempts in the form of fake emails or calls.
Beverly Anderson, President of Equifax Global Consumer Services asked Jamil Farshchi, Equifax Chief Information Security Officer, the top 5 questions Equifax has received about how individuals can protect themselves from cyber security threats during the Covid-19 pandemic. These tips are applicable to protect yourself during normal times as well, not just during this time.
1. How can I better protect my credit?
- Check your credit reports frequently. The three credit bureaus announced that they are providing all US consumers access to free credit reports for a year through AnnualCreditReport.com. Take advantage of the offer and closely monitor any unauthorized changes.
- Utilize key tools. There are many tools available that can help you better protect your identity while staying on top of your credit. You can place a free fraud alert or a security freeze by creating a myEquifax™ account. Other products, like the Equifax ID Patrol™ include features like automatic fraud alerts, Equifax Credit report lock, and lost wallet assistance in addition to other services.
- File your taxes early. While the tax deadlines have been delayed, the longer you wait to file, the more time fraudsters have to claim an unauthorized refund on your behalf.
2. What are some basic tips to avoid scams and security threats during Covid-19?
While the Covid-19 crisis is putting a spotlight on security scams, there are some key things you should always do to avoid scams and cyber security threats:
- Always look out for phishing, and be careful about clicking links in unsolicited emails or text messages. Phishing and scamming are intended to trick you, so often, the messages look genuine. Hackers aren’t just targeting corporate email accounts – they’re also sending messages with malicious links to personal email addresses and even to phones in text messages. Before you click on anything, make sure it is a legitimate link.
- Install the updates on your devices. If you’ve been ignoring that pop-up about updating your phone, don’t! Install it now. Many updates for phones, tablets, and laptops include patches for known vulnerabilities. In other words, they prevent hackers from using outdated software on your devices to get access to your device or information.
3. How do I identify fake websites, scam calls, fake stimulus and phishing emails used to promote bogus Covid-19 related products?
Be skeptical of any unsolicited outreaches. The saying that “if it is too good to be true, it probably is” applies with scams and phishing. Avoiding fake websites and avoiding phishing emails are similar in that for both, you want to (1) look for clues that they are fake and (2) if you're suspicious or just want to be cautious, type in the website name or phone number you know to be correct rather than clicking/calling back.
This government website is a great resource to help understand trending consumer scams, identify them and be better prepared to mitigate any risk.
4. What are best practices for securing online conferencing services?
As many businesses utilize online conferencing services for both work and school, bad actors are taking this opportunity to gain access. The easiest and most effective way to protect yourself is to make sure that you add a password when you organize a call. Most major services give the option to set a password, but it may not be turned on by default.
5. Shopping is more prevalent online in the age of social distancing. What are some of the ways I can keep my personal and financial information safe?
There are several things you can do to protect yourself when providing payment information online.
- Ensure that you are actually dealing with the correct vendor. As stated above, phishing is increasing as an issue and before you execute any transaction, check the web address to make sure it is valid.
- Do not pay with a debit card if possible. A debit card provides direct access to your bank account, while credit cards may offer more protection.
- Enable multi-factor authorization. Again, it may be a hassle, but it drastically reduces your exposure to an issue.
- Avoid performing financial transactions over unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.
It is very important at this time to stay vigilant, and Equifax is here to help.
Equifax recently launched the COVID + Credit Financial Resource Center to help you understand how to navigate the financial and credit impacts of the pandemic. The site provides insights on managing finances during these difficult times and mitigating negative impact on your credit.