Given all the stressors of recent times – flooded basements, job insecurity, the ongoing pandemic, fears that the delta variant will cause more destruction in the future – I would venture to say that many people are not much concerned about data breaches and identity theft.
But the crooks don’t give up.
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T-Mobile this week confirmed it was hit by a “highly sophisticated cyberattack” that made public the names, dates of birth, social security numbers and driver’s license details of more than 40 million consumers who applied for credit from T-Mobile.
According to the company, no phone numbers, passwords or account numbers were compromised. But some doubt that statement will eventually be updated to indicate phone numbers have been compromised. Some data and screenshots shared by hackers suggest otherwise, according to a report by KrebsOnSecurity.
“T-Mobile customers should expect phishers to take advantage of public concerns about the breach to impersonate the company — and possibly even messages containing the recipient’s compromised account information to make the communications look more legitimate.” , according to a warning issued by KrebsOnSecurity.
T-Mobile also reported that it confirmed that approximately “850,000 active T-Mobile prepaid customer names, phone numbers and account PINs were also disclosed.”
The company said it has proactively reset all PINs on those prepaid accounts.
However, other customers are encouraged to change their PIN by accessing their T-Mobile account online or calling the company’s team by calling 611 on their T-Mobile phone.
Paige Schaffer, CEO of global identity and cyber protection services at Generali Global Assistance, said some people may even want to temporarily remove some apps, such as their banking app or credit card app, that they have on their phones while this investigation continues. .
If you keep passwords on your phone—which you shouldn’t—she said make sure you clear those passwords too.
Hacking incidents may seem so common that today we only pay attention to large ones. But consumers should be aware that they need to pay more attention now, as more information about them could be in the hands of bad actors.
“The pandemic has not helped matters. It made the climate ripe for fraudsters,” Schaffer said.
T-Mobile has not said whether IMEI numbers — unique identifiers associated with your phone — have been compromised.
If those numbers come out, experts warn there’s a bigger threat that at some point, malicious actors could take over accounts and potentially access your bank account through the app on your phone. International mobile device ID numbers are not as widely available to crooks, such as your date of birth, name, and Social Security number, so they can be quite valuable to hackers.
Schaffer noted that consumers have a lot of access to their phones, so the risks of a SIM swap — where your phone’s number could be stolen — is quite concerning. Carriers have taken precautions, but there is a possibility that outsiders will take your phone number if the correct information is available.
Someone who can control your phone number can control your online world.
Hackers, of course, have plenty when dealing with stolen Social Security numbers and other IDs.
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Stolen ID information can be used for all sorts of nefarious activities, including allowing scammers to open a credit card in your name, applying for unemployment benefits with your ID, renting an apartment, getting a job with your Social Security number, filing false tax returns when stealing tax refund cash and medical identity theft.
“T-Mobile’s breach is a major concern, especially for the 40 million people whose names, social security numbers, and driver’s license information were revealed,” said Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and host of the podcast “What the Hack with Adam Levin” . .”
Levin said the possible crimes are nearly limitless, calling the information “an Eldorado for scammers and identity thieves.”
Unfortunately, Levin said, the general public has become numb to the endless news cycle of data breaches, cyber-attacks, ransomware attacks and phishing campaigns.
“Telecommunications carriers are ideal targets for threat actors,” Levin said.
“Even a smaller carrier like T-Mobile with a market share of about 10% still represents tens of millions of customers and huge amounts of data,” he said.
However, hackers are looking at all kinds of targets, not just big brand name companies.
For example, the Internal Revenue Service warned in August that identity thieves continue to target tax professionals and others.
Susan Allen, senior manager of the tax practices and ethics team at the American Institute of CPAs, said the COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of tax fraud and identity theft issues.
Scammers had more of an incentive to try and take advantage of the incentive payments provided during the pandemic, as well as expanded unemployment benefits.
She noted that the IRS’s Dirty Dozen Tax Scams list for 2021 highlighted theft related to things like economic impact payments and tax refunds, phishing schemes and unemployment fraud leading to incorrect Forms 1099-G and many more scams.
For example, taxpayers are warned to beware of text messages, random incoming phone calls or emails requesting information about bank accounts or asking someone to click on a link or verify data related to a stimulus payment.
The IRS does not contact people by phone, email, text, or social media to request Social Security numbers or other personal or financial information related to economic impact payments.
“There are telltale signs of identity theft that tax professionals can easily miss,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement.
Signs of fraud include a tax return that has been rejected because someone’s Social Security number has already been used on another return. Or suddenly receive tax-related emails that your tax professional really didn’t send.
The IRS warned tax professionals to watch for other signs, including:
For example, victims may receive an IRS notice that they received wages from a place where they never worked. Or, if you’re retired, you may even receive a notice from the Social Security Administration stating that benefits are being reduced or stopped because IRS records show you worked and got paid when you actually weren’t.
While it may be tempting to just ignore another data breach or strange signs of identity theft, experts say it’s best to pay attention to what’s going on.
Take advantage of all the credit monitoring services offered, including two years of free identity protection services through McAfee for T-Mobile customers.
Check your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. One in three consumers has never checked their credit report, according to previous research by The Harris Poll commissioned by the American Institute of CPAs.
Think carefully freeze your credit file free through the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You must contact each agency individually for a freeze. See information at:
A freeze is a free service that helps prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. Freezing your credit will not hurt your credit score. You would have to lift that freeze before you can apply for a car loan, credit card or other loans yourself.
You can access any credit cards or lines of credit you have already opened, even if your credit is blocked. Criminals can still try to use existing accounts, so watch your statements.
Change your passwords, as you should regularly anyway.
Sure, who has the energy for another data breach? But being too exhausted to make a move gives the hackers a head start.
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