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Warning! Internet Pirates are Trying to STEAL YOUR Personal Financial Information; Here's the Good News: YOU have the POWER to Stop Them
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 liscenses in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take you 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:
The email will probably warn you of a serious problem that requires you immediate attention. It may use phrases, such as "Immediate attention required," or "Please contact us immediately about your account." The e-mail will hten 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 use to verify your identity when speaking to a real financial institution, such as your mothers maiden name or your place of birth.
If you provide the requested information, you my find yourself a victim of identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself
1. Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request, whether it is over the phone or over the Internet. E-mails and Internet pages created by phishers may look exactly like the real thing. They may even have a fake padlock icon that ordinarily is used to denote a secure site. If you did not initiate the communication, you should not provide any information.
2. If you believe the contact may be legitimate, contact the financial institution yourself. You can find phone numbers and Web sites on the monthly statements you receive from your financial institution, or you can look the company up in a phone book or on the Internet. The key is that you should be the one to initiate the contact, using contact information that you have verified yourself.
3. Never provide your password over the phone or in response to an unsolicited Internet request. A financial institution would never ask you to verify your account information online. Thieves armed with this information and your account number can help themselves to your savings.
4. Review account statements regularly to ensure all charges are correct. If your account statement is late in arriving, call your financial institution to find out why. If your financial institution offers electronic account access, periodically review activity online to catch suspicious activity.
You Can Fight Identity Theft – Here’s How:
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 computer.
Do not be intimidated by an e-mail or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.
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.
If you fall victim to an attack, act immediately to protect yourself. Alert your financial institution. Place fraud alerts on your credit files. Monitor your credit files and account statements closely.
Report suspicious e-mails or calls to the Federal Trade Commission through the Internet at www.consumer.gov/idtheft, or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.
What to do if you fall victim:
Contact your financial institution immediately and alert it to the situation.