Tips for Avoiding Phishing Scams

If you use a computer at home or at work, chances are you have heard about phishing scams and the financial havoc they are having around the country and around the world. For those unfamiliar with the technique, phishing involves a scam artist sending out an email that appears to be from a legitimate source, but whose real goal is to steal valuable personal information, such as account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers and PIN numbers.

Many of the first phishing emails focused on the auction site eBay, and many eBay users found themselves the unwitting victims of credit card and bank fraud. In recent years, however, more and more phishing emails have focused on banks, credit unions, mortgage companies and other financial institutions, so it is important to be aware of the problem and take steps to avoid becoming a victim.

Some of the things consumers can do to avoid many common phishing scams include:

  • Always be suspicious of emails requesting personal information, whether they appear to come from a legitimate source or not. For instance, no bank would ever need to verify your Social Security Number or account number, and certainly not in an email.
  • Even if you think the email is from a legitimate source. Do not click on an internet link from inside the email. Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated at making very legitimate looking copies of banking, auction and other websites, and it is easy for even the most sophisticated internet user to be fooled. Instead of clicking the link, manually type the website address of the bank or financial institution into your browser and navigate to the proper area.
  • Under no circumstances should you provide sensitive information like your Social Security Number or bank account number as a result of an email inquiry. If you think the email is legitimate, call the bank yourself in order to verify the information they need.
  • If you think the email is a phishing scam, contact the affected company about it. Keeping the companies affected aware of what the scammers are doing is one of the best ways to combat the problem at its source.
  • Check the website of your bank, credit union, mortgage broker or other financial institution often. When banks do find out about phishing scams, they often post them on their websites as a warning to their customers. Take advantage of this warning to avoid becoming a victim.
  • If you feel you may have become a victim of a phishing scam, be sure to notify your bank about it immediately. There are immediate steps the bank can take to help protect your account, and notifying the bank will help to preserve your legal rights.

As internet use for financial transactions continues to grow, the number of scams targeting banking customers is likely to only grow. It is essential that every consumer take the steps necessary to become educated about these threats and how to avoid them.



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