“Phishing” is when a scam artist sends out millions of emails to unsuspecting consumers pretending to be a legitimate company and duping them into surrendering personal information that is used for identity theft. Three common schemes are:
--Confirm a UPS package you were supposedly expecting.
--Confirm the flight reservations you were supposed to have made.
Almost everyone has a bank account, but the sheer number of emails sent means a significant number of recipients will be waiting for a UPS package or had recently made a flight reservation. Warnings to act quickly and “your account may be compromised” are common. The user is sent to a realistic looking web page and asked for his username and password. The scammer will access the victim’s financial information, damage the computer with a virus, or gain full control of the victim’s computer and use it to send spam for more phishing schemes.
The recent explosion of smart phones has made phishing much easier, with text messages used instead of emails. According to Consumer Reports, more than 9 million Americans were victims of phishing in 2011. The Better Business Bureau regards phishing as last year’s top scam.
5 Ways To Protect Yourself:
1) Never click on a link in an email.
2) Never call a number (supposedly related to your account) in a text message.
3) Open your web browser and type in the address yourself to check for legitimacy.
4) Don’t open an email attachment unless you know the sender is legitimate.
5) If you believe you have been scammed, immediately change the passwords on all your online accounts, contact your bank or internet merchant, put a fraud alert on all your credit reports, check your financial statements at least 2 – 3 times a month for unexplained charges.
The editors, “Scamnation!” Consumer Reports, October 2012
Photo: Rserit (flickr)