Phishing scams are common, especially when news of widespread data breaches filters through a concerned population.
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That fact that personal information of over 100 million Capital One Financial Corporation credit card holders was compromised by a computer hacker is troubling enough, but that company and others warn that scams after the scam could be just as dangerous for consumers.
Specifically, phishing scams in which Internet scoundrels posing as legitimate companies attempt to acquire personal or banking information are common, especially when news of widespread data breaches filters through a concerned population.
Such scams are "absolutely common these days," said Rick Phillips, vice president of digital platform solutions at Weidenhammer, a nationally recognized digital consulting firm based in Wyomissing.
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"If my caller ID doesn't say who you are I'm not picking it up," he said. "I would want to make sure who I'm talking to is who I think I'm talking to."
"The social media playground is part of this problem," Phillips added. "People don't know how to keep themselves private anymore."
The latest ripples of cyber concern began Tuesday, when news broke that someone had hacked into the Capital One's system and obtained personal information, such as credit scores, balances, payment history and contact information for over 100 million people who had applied for credit cards from 2005 to early 2019.
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In a letter to concerned cardholders published on its website, Capital One said fragments of transaction data from a total of 23 days in 2016, 2017 and 2018 were also obtained through the breach.
The breach did not reveal credit card account numbers or login credentials, according to Capital One. It did, however, compromise social security numbers of about 140,000 cardholders, some 80,000 of which were linked to bank account numbers.
The FBI arrested the alleged hacker, Paige A. Thompson, and charged her with a single count of computer fraud and abuse in U.S. District Court in Seattle. Capital One, meanwhile, plugged the hole that the hacker had exploited, and insisted that the lessons from the incident would strengthen future cybersecurity efforts.
Capital One has pledged to make free credit monitoring and identity protection available to everyone affected.
But the story may not end there.
In a "frequently asked questions," section of its website, Capital One warns customers to be mindful of so-called phishing scams related to news of the data breach.
"These emails (relating to the breach) are not from Capital One," the company writes on its website. It warned customers not to reply to such emails, or click on links within them. Instead, customers should forward such emails to email@example.com, and then delete them.
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Similarly, calls from Capital One warned against falling for phone scams in which unsavory types hoping to capitalize on fresh fears ask customers for personal information.
"Capital One is not calling customers to ask for credit card or account information, or Social Security numbers over the phone or via email," the company said on its website.
"There's a price to pay to be as connected as we are," Phillips said. "It's time to be aware of our presence on the Internet. Sometimes it's just about education more than failing technology. It's about asking the question, 'how do I lock my door?' "
Weidenhammer, a nationally recognized digital consulting firm, was hit by a phishing scam in March 2017, when scammers were able to obtain W-2 forms of 180 current and former employees. It now requires employees to work through a series of online cyber-awareness lessons from a company called KnowBe4, whose co-owner, Kevin Mitnick, was once branded as the world's "most wanted hacker."
The KnowBe4 program "teaches you so much about helping yourself," Phillips said. "The human firewall is one of your greatest strengths."
Capital One said the incident will cost the company about $100 to $150 million in 2019, with most of those expenditures driven by customer notifications, credit monitoring, technology costs and legal support.
"The Company carries insurance to cover certain costs associated with a cyber risk event. This insurance is subject to a $10 million deductible and standard exclusions, and carries a total coverage limit of $400 million," it stated on its website.
In 2017, a data breach at Equifax, one of the major credit reporting companies, exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information of roughly half of the U.S. population.
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Equifax agreed to pay at least $700 million to settle lawsuits over the breach in a settlement with federal authorities and states. The agreement includes up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, according to the Association Press.
Many major banks have sought to stem the risk of data breaches in recent years. JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank began replacing customers' debit cards several years ago with more secure chip-based cards. That effort followed well-publicized data breaches that hit retailers such as Target and Home Depot.
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