It was never a matter of if, but when.
As soon as the news broke about two major hacking incidents at the Office of Personnel Management, I knew what would come next. And I knew it wouldn’t be immediate cases of identity theft.
It could be months, if not years, before identity thieves victimize those whose information was compromised. They know people are more vigilant at the beginning. So they wait until everyone calms down.
But there is another group of scammers who strike quickly when a data breach is disclosed. Ironically, with nary a piece of information from a hacking incident, these criminals can ride the coattails of the caper by pretending to help potential victims.
And sure enough, the Federal Trade Commission recently issued a scam alert warning government employees, contractors and others affected by the hacks to look out for imposters pretending to be from the FTC and offering compensation to data-breach victims.
In April, the personnel office learned that personal information — birth dates, home addresses and Social Security numbers — for 4.2 million current and former federal employees had been stolen. Then in June came a massive breach involving 21.5 million individuals. In that case, the stolen information included background-investigation records of current, former and prospective federal employees and contractors.
With that many people now concerned about their personal information, scammers are likely to find quite a few who can be tricked into parting with their money or the very data that was stolen.
According to Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, an attorney for the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, here’s how one scam works: A man, who identifies himself as Dave Johnson, calls and says he’s from the FTC and the government is offering compensation to people affected by the personnel office breach. He says he’s from the agency’s Las Vegas office. But to get the money, you have to provide some personal information.
“Stop,” Schifferle writes in a blog post. “Don’t tell him anything. He’s not from the FTC.”
I can see how people might fall for this scam. The personnel office has announced that it’s offering people identity-theft protection, and a clever con artist could persuade folks that they’re getting money to pay for this service. Continue reading at the Columbus Dispatch....
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