Not to Get Hooked by an Internet Scam
Internet scammers casting about for people’s financial information
have a new way to lure unsuspecting victims: They go “phishing.”
Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses spam or pop-up messages to
deceive you into disclosing your credit card numbers, bank account
information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), phishers send an
email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization
that you deal with – for example, your Internet service provider
(ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency.
The message usually says that you need to “update” or
“validate” your account information. It might threaten
some dire consequence if you don’t respond. The message directs
you to a Web site that looks just like a legitimate organization’s
site, but it isn’t.
The purpose of the bogus site? To trick you into divulging your personal
information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills
or commit crimes in your name.
The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, suggests these
tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:
If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial
information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate
companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are
concerned about your account, contact the organization in the email
using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet
browser session and type in the company’s correct Web address.
In any case, don’t cut and paste the link in the message.
Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not
a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate
a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information
through an organization’s Web site, look for indicators that
the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status
bar or a URL for a website that begins “https:” (the “s”
stands for “secure”). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof;
some phishers have forged security icons.
Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive
them to determine whether there are any unauthorized charges. If your
statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit
card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date. Some phishing emails
contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities
on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a
firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted
files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome
files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses
as well as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and
that updates automatically.
A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all
communications from unauthorized sources. It’s especially important
to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Finally, your
operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches”
to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files
from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
Report suspicious activity to the FTC. If you get spam that is phishing
for information, forward it to email@example.com. If you believe you’ve
been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the
FTC’s Identity Theft Web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to
learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft. Visit www.ftc.gov/spam
to learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and
unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information
to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint
or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or
call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.
The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other
fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online
database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement
agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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