Phishing - What is it? How does it
There's a new type of Internet piracy called "phishing." It's
pronounced "fishing," and that's exactly what these thieves are doing:
"fishing" for your personal financial information. What they want are
account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other
confidential information that they can use to loot your checking account
or run up bills on your credit cards.
In the worst case, you could find yourself a victim of identity
theft. With the sensitive information obtained from a successful
phishing scam, these thieves can take out loans or obtain credit cards
and even driver's licenses in your name. They can do damage to your
financial history and personal reputation that can take years to
unravel. But if you understand how phishing works and how to protect
yourself, you can help stop this crime.
Here's how phishing works:
In a typical case, you'll receive an e-mail that appears to come from
a reputable company that you recognize and do business with, such as
your financial institution or a government agency.
The e-mail will probably warn you of a serious problem that requires
your immediate attention. It may use phrases, such as "immediate
attention required," or "Please contact us immediately about your
account." The e-mail will then encourage you to click on a button to go
to the institution's Web site.
In a phishing scam, you could be redirected to a phony Web site that
may look exactly like the real thing. Sometimes, in fact, it may be the
company's actual Web site. In those cases, a pop-up window will quickly
appear for the purpose of harvesting your financial information. In
either case, you may be asked to update your account information or to
provide information for verification purposes: your Social Security
number, your account number, your password, or the information you use
to verify your identity when speaking to a real financial institution,
such as your mother's maiden name or your place of birth.
If you provide the requested information, you may find yourself the
victim of identity theft.
Prevent Identity Theft
- Never provide personal financial information, including your
Social Security number, account numbers, or passwords, over the phone
or the Internet if you did not initiate the contact.
- Never click on the link provided in an e-mail you believe is
fraudulent. It may contain a virus that can contaminate your
- Do not be intimidated by an e-mail or caller who suggests dire
consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial
- If you believe the contact is legitimate, go to the company's Web
site by typing in the site address directly or using a page you have
previously book marked, instead of a link provided in the e-mail.
- Report suspicious e-mails or calls to the Federal Trade Commission
by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT or through the Internet at www.ftc.gov
Free Annual Credit Reports
The federal FACTA law enables you to receive a free credit report per
year from each of the three credit bureaus. (FCRA §612) This is over and
above the free reports you can order when you place fraud alerts on your
three credit reports. Once you have received your free credit reports as
a part of the fraud-alert process, follow up in a few months by taking
advantage of your free FACTA copy. Order your free credit reports by
phone by calling 877-322-8228 or online at www.ftc.gov
Report Identity Theft or Fraud
If you believe, you may be a victim of identity theft:
from Identity theft
FTC regulations define an "identity theft report" to include a report
made to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency. If your local
police department refuses to file a report and your situation involves
fraudulent use of the U.S. mail, you can obtain an identity theft report
from the U.S. Postal Inspector. If your case involves fraudulent use of
a driver's license in your name, you might be able to obtain a report
from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. The FTC has more
information on identity theft reports at
Protect your Computer
Install anti virus software to prevent viruses, and anti spam
software to help prevent spam and junk email from entering your inbox.
- Install a firewall to help prevent unauthorized access to your
- Install spyware software to block the installation of spyware on
- Spyware can monitor or control your computer use, and send you pop
ups or redirect you to Websites.
Protect yourself, your family
and your devices with tips and resources from:
Learn how to avoid scams,
secure your PC, protect your kids and how to be smart online from: