A rapidly growing form of Internet fraud is a practice known as phishing. Phishing refers to perpetrators sending fraudulent email messages requesting confidential information. The information then allows the perpetrator to gain access to your accounts and steal money, your identity, or both.
With a little skepticism, you can help protect yourself from many phishing scams. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Do not disclose any personal identity information if requested via an unsolicited phone call or email, including: account numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification, PIN numbers, passwords, or your Social Security number.
- Do not reply to unsolicited emails. If you have questions about any given account, you should contact the institution directly.
- Be especially skeptical of unsolicited emails – even those that appear to be from institutions you trust – asking you to follow particular links, respond with identifying information, or change passwords. A common phishing practice is to set up websites that pose as the sites of trusted institutions in order to gather legitimate passwords from unsuspecting users. Sometimes these fake sites are nearly identical to the real thing.
- Change your passwords regularly, whether or not you have reason to believe they’ve been compromised.
- Sign off the website once you have completed a secure online session.
- When your computer is not in use, shut it down or disconnect it from the Internet.
- Only provide your ID and password when your browser indicates an encrypted connection. An encrypted connection is normally indicated by an https:// in your browser's address bar in front of the address of the page you are viewing.
If You Believe You Are A Victim Of Phishing
- Change your passwords immediately.
- Contact credit reporting services, and have a fraud alert attached to your credit report file. It's also possible to freeze all of your accounts, temporarily, as you investigate the fraud.
- Monitor the activity in your account for a period of time.
- If appropriate, notify law enforcement agencies.
- Report all suspicious contacts to the Federal Trade Commission through the Internet or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.
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