Have you ever received an email with a similar message like these? “We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please login below to your online banking profile to review your account activity.” “Your electronic funds transfer was rejected. Please click the link below for additional information.” It’s a scam called “phishing” – and it involves Internet fraudsters and identity thieves who send fraudulent emails, spam, or pop-up messages to trick unsuspecting victims into providing their personal information like your Social Security number, bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information. Phishing emails claim to be from legitimate retailers, banks, organizations, or government agencies. The message may ask you to “update”, “verify”, or “confirm” your account and personal information. The recipients of some scam emails are requested to click on an included hyperlink, which directs them to a fake website. The ultimate goal of any phishing email is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the perpetrators can steal your identity and use it to commit fraud.
How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Phishing Scam:
1. Never Supply Any Personal or Financial Information from an Email
Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your accounts, contact the sender of the email using a telephone number you know is legitimate. Do not attempt to contact the sender by using a phone number contained in the suspicious email.
2. Do Not Click on Links in Emails
Don’t click on any links or open any attachments from an email unless you know the sender and were expecting the email.
3. Do Not Reply to Phishing Emails
Don’t reply to the email or attempt to contact the senders in any way.
4. Do Not Supply Any Information on the Bogus Website
If you did click on a link in the suspected email, don’t ever give any information on the bogus website it brought you to.
5. Delete the Email from Your Computer ASAP!
6. Protect Your Computer
Make sure your computer is protected with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Some malicious software, a.k.a. malware, has the specific purpose of obtaining the login credentials to your online financial accounts.
7. Review Credit Card and Bank Account Statements
Make sure to review all your credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized transactions.
8. File a Complaint with the FTC if You Believe You’ve Been Scammed
If you think you’ve been scammed, file a complaint at and visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft website for more steps to take to protect yourself. Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft. There has been a significant rise in phishing and malicious spam in the first quarter of 2012. Make sure to protect yourself and your computer from these attacks, and educate your children and parents on what to look for, and how to avoid becoming their next victim. Do you have any other tips for our readers on how to avoid phishing scams?
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