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Protect Yourself from Online Theft


Protect Yourself from Online Theft

E-mail Scammers Have Gone 'Phishing'

As if having your e-mail inbox stuffed full of spam and viruses wasn't bad enough, here's a new term to add to your lexicon: phishing. It's pronounced "fishing", and that's just what some spammers are doing: trying to trick you into taking their bait.

If you're one of the millions of people who use online banking for checking or credit card accounts, use an auction website, or just buy anything online, you may already have received an official-looking message purportedly from your bank or from eBay requesting that you 'verify' your account. Just click here, such messages say -- and the link even looks like the one you're used to using.

But even though the site you go to may look just like your familiar login page, complete with logos and welcome messages, it's not -- it's a fake, designed to trick you into entering your login information. And that gives them access to your account.

Banks both large and small are being targeted. U.S. Bank warns that

...cyber-criminals include upsetting or exciting statements in their emails. They want people to react immediately and respond with the desired information without thinking. To protect yourself, take the time to examine the claims made in the email. If you receive an email requesting sensitive information, check its authenticity by contacting the company that appears to be the originator of the email.

This is excellent advice. If you have any doubts at all about the authenticity of the e-mail you received, do not click on the link. Call the company instead.

Here's a partial list of banks and other financial institutions that have been targeted, with links you may find helpful. We'll add more as we hear about (or from) them.

You may even receive a bogus e-mail that looks as though it came from the American Bankers Association, a banker trade group, requesting your personal information. Read more here. Another older but still active scam appears to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC.

Further Reading

What You Can Do

First, do not respond to the e-mail and do not click on any of the links in it. If you've already done so, call the company (or financial institution) at once. It's important!

Next, report it! Immediately call the company or financial institution and describe the message. (Who knows -- you may be among the first recipients of a new phishing scam.) And forward the suspicious e-mail to the ABA at alert@aba.com and/or the FDIC at alert@fdic.gov (for bank phishing scams). You can also report all such scams to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center website at http://www.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp; just follow the instructions for filing a complaint.

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