Last night, the Live 5 News Facebook page had a post that grabbed my attention. It read:
A brand new threat to victims of the South Carolina taxpayer hack. Why signing up for credit protection has made you vulnerable to a second wave of attacks. What you need to watch out for now! Tuesday on Live 5 News This Morning at 6AM.
It should come as no surprise that MANY Charlestonians were just as interested as I was in this new threat to our already compromised credit. As of the publishing of this article, the post had been shared by 91 Facebook users and had a plethora of comments.
I quickly reached for my remote and set my DVR to record the early morning news program. This story sounded explosive and it had me even more worried about my credit. As soon as I woke up this morning, I flipped on the news and fast-forwarded until I found what was sure to be a shocking news piece.
Turns out I fell for the oldest trick in the television news handbook.
Although the preview is technically true, it is also incredibly misleading. Live 5's post made it seem that the Experian credit protection all South Carolina residents were given in the wake of the SCDOR hack was somehow compromised. Sure, I (and many others) made this leap on our own, but who could blame us based on the preview's wording.
Well, it turns out Experian wasn't compromised. You are perfectly safe if you signed up for their credit protection. There are no issues with it - your information is safe with them.
So, how exactly were we made vulnerable then?
According to the Live 5 News story, scam artists are sending out e-mails pretending to work for Experian, Equifax, or your bank in an attempt to steal your information. This tactic is called phishing and has been around for about as long as the Internet has been.
Phishing. That's the big, scary way that you are "vulnerable to a second wave of attacks."
Despite what the story says, you didn't have to sign up for credit protection to be a potential target for this scam. In fact, you have probably been targeted in these type of schemes for years. You may even have 2 or 3 of these fake e-mails in your "spam" folder as you read this.
Again, Live 5 News is technically telling the truth, but it was clearly overstated to attract viewers. That's the way TV news is sometimes.
Although the threat was overstated, Live 5 News still provided a fitting line in their piece - "scam artists hope to capitalize on your fear."