People of Florida are being informed of a new phishing scheme that mainly targets those who have already been victims of the recent data breach on a credit monitoring company called Equifax.

The announcement went like this:

“I’m Ashley Moody; Florida’s Attorney General, we are issuing a consumer alert about scams targeting the victims of the Equifax data breach; the largest credit reporting data breach in our history.”

Atty. Moody is one of the 50 attorneys general within 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. She managed to scope a settlement with Equifax as the final result of their investigation in 2017. Moody managed to make an agreement to have Equifax pay $600 million, and $425 million will go towards those who were affected by the massive data breach as part of the collateral.

“Our settlement requires Equifax to pay victims through a claims process,” Moody said during the interview. “A website is already in place to expedite claims, and already scammers are trying to exploit the process. They are sending phishing emails to drive targets to a fake claims page. The page will ask for Social Security numbers and other personal data.”

“Don’t fall for it.” Exclaimed Moody.

Citizens of Florida who suspect that they have been victimized or were about to be victimized by such schemes should immediately contact and consult the attorney general’s office by dialing (899) 9NO-SCAM. Aside from that, they can visit their website, which is www.MyFloridaLegal.com. This also applies to other scams of some sorts.

“The data breaches are happening, I believe, at this point on a daily basis if not an hourly basis,” said Tammy Ward, who is part of the Better Business Bureau in Pensacola. “We just hear about all the ones that are actually happening out there.”

There are actually a lot of red flags when it comes to determining something as a part of a scam. For example, you should be wary of suspicious emails that were sent from a shady email address. This fact is a huge indicator that you are potentially being lured in by a phishing scheme. The only problem with this one is that most scammers would most likely use all means to make everything look legitimate—increasing the likelihood of getting scammed.

“For the most part if it doesn’t have anything to do with the accounting organization, it’s not going to be a legitimate email,” Tammy Ward said.

“You also want to look inside the email and look at the English that’s in there. Several times you’ll get messages that you can’t even understand if you actually read it out loud. It’s doesn’t make any sense.”

But emails and social media accounts are not the only tools that scammers use. They now resort to using text messages, making it far more believable than in emails.

“We’ve had several calls saying, ‘I got this text from a such-and-such bank; am I in trouble, do I need to respond to it?’” Ward says. “The first question we ask them is, ‘do you actually bank at that particular financial institution?’ And we have had people say ‘no;’ so we tell them, just delete the text.”

Consumers are then asked to find a bank statement that they have received in the mail and try to call them to ask if they recently sent an email or text message to you to confirm its legitimacy. Online transactions are the most common strategy of most scammers nowadays because, with just a single link, they can access all kinds of information about that person. Ward advises them to start by making sure the URL included in the text message begins with “https.” Plus, there is a padlock icon in order to learn if the webpage is secure or not.

“You also want to double-check the URL; there are several scammers out there now that will make one letter or one number different from the place that you actually want to go to,” Ward says. “And if you’re not careful you may be going to their site and not the site that you really want to be on.”

It is highly advised that everyone who had received shady, unsolicited emails or text messages should not send any response to avoid falling in their traps. The simple act of replying puts people in an irreversible risk and may actually be too late. That is why everyone should be vigilant at all times to avoid such circumstances.

Scamming is still rampant nowadays, and the officials are doing everything they can to prevent people from being victims of such schemes and to stop this stigma altogether. Tammy Ward also tells everyone that they should not place all of their worries on the officials and actively do something to protect their information—which is basically being cautious at all times.

“You don’t want to give you private information out to anyone, especially those unsolicited through a phone call or an email,” says Ward. “You want to make sure that your social media is basically locked down. And you want to make sure that any passwords that you have online – you change them frequently.”

If you are a victim of the Equifax massive data breach and is planning on filing a claim, you should visit the official website at www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.

The continuous rise of technology has had its good and bad sides. It is good because it paved the way to a lot of amazing capabilities, one of which is communication; and it is bad because criminals also took advantage of it and victimized those who are unaware.

All I can say is be wary of something first before going for it.