As cybercriminals are getting smarter and have more motivation to access sensitive, confidential, or protected data, it appears that no one is truly safe from the threat of a data breach. Organizations big and small, and the people that share their information with them, can fall victim to data breaches. Thus, suffer a wide variety of damaging consequences. For businesses and organizations, that can translate into financial loss, client loss, reputational damage, or legal issues. However, for individuals, it can result in identity theft, fraud, and a higher risk of scammers' attention.
With over 5000 confirmed breaches in the past year, it’s quite obvious that this has become a concerning worldwide phenomenon. Attackers can steal all types of data, from corporate information, healthcare histories, personally identifiable information (PII), payment details, or other confidential information. They then use it to their advantage. While companies and organizations have more resources at their disposal to offset the negative impact of a data breach, the average citizen might not know exactly what to do in the aftermath of such an event. That leaves a lot of people at risk and vulnerable to scams.
If your personal information was stolen in a data breach, you have to be aware of the hazards that might lurk around the corner. In the hands of a skilled scammer, any piece of information can turn into a dangerous weapon. However, knowing about these matters can help you stay safe and significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to a scam. So, here’s what you have to keep in mind in order to protect yourself from opportunistic scammers after a data breach.
After stealing your sensitive data, scammers will have the possibility to contact you, either by phone, email, or text. If they have your phone number, it’s almost certain they’ll call you and put on a game of pretense. Often they try to convince you they’re representatives of the company or an organization trying to help.
At this point, you have likely seen news of the breach, as usually when things like these occur it is public. Especially if it’s a large-scale breach for a reputable company. It’s obviously very unsettling to hear on the news that a company holding your personal information has a breach. Thus, it can be tempting to take whatever help you can get. In the heat of the moment, you might not be able to spot the red flags hanging high when scammers call you.
Keep in mind that scammers can be very inventive. They usually do their homework thoroughly. They already have information on you, and they'll be counting on your poor emotional state to convince you they’re trying to help. Considering not many people know where to turn to or how to make a data breach claim in the UK, they can easily win a victim’s trust. Thus, they obtain even more sensitive information, making the matter a lot worse than it is.
But how can you distinguish between what’s genuine and what’s false? What can you do to protect yourself from scammers? It’s not as much about what you should do but about what you shouldn’t do. In other words, you should refrain from taking action when you’re in an emotionally vulnerable state.
Instead of hasting to make an immediate decision and follow the instructions the caller gives you, ask them to contact you the following day. Take the time to reflect on the situation. Delaying the decision will give you the opportunity to analyze things calmly and do a bit of research. Contact the company yourself and find out if it was them contacting you or someone else.
Scammers don’t always operate through calls. In most cases, they will try to get to you by sending phishing emails or texts. Although the channel might differ, the strategy is more or less the same. They’ll pretend to contact you on behalf of the company in order to gain access to further information. They’ll either ask you to click on a link or disclose more sensitive information. Both these requirements are huge red flags that you should be aware of.
The emails and texts you receive might look genuine. Remember, scammers, know how to build a believable scenario by using company logos or providing links to trustworthy resources. But just because some of the information in the email or text is valid. This doesn’t guarantee the authenticity of the sender.
As in the previous case, you should stop and think before you act. Don’t follow any links and don’t give away any personal data. The company with the data breach or relevant authorities will never ask you to follow links or share information via emails or text. This type of communication can be easily deceiving. Make sure you double-check with the company and the authorities and don't follow links.
Sometimes, scammers lack any valuable information on you. However, that doesn’t stop them from trying to get hold of it. They’ll set a trap by building a network of false websites providing support for data breach victims. They'll also create fake social media profiles. Many victims will check if their sensitive information was compromised by the breach or not. Usually, this implies sharing some personal info first, which is exactly what they’re looking for.
Since there’s an entire network of social media accounts and platforms linking to these sites with plenty of threads and discussions on the topic. Often they can easily pass as genuine. However, social media proof is not something you should rely on in these cases.
You have to get your information from legitimate sources, which are usually well-known by the wide public. You can also check the authenticity of a website by searching it on Google. The search engine will warn you if there’s something suspicious about it. But, the best way to stay safe is to contact the company directly and check to see if your information was in the breach.