September 1 2011

Online Identity Theft: Phishing

“Phishing” is a fraudulent attempt, usually made through e-mail, to obtain personal information or passwords to your valuable online accounts. Identity thieves and scam artists send out authentic looking emails claiming to be from reputable credit card companies, banks, and brokerage firms. These emails will attempt to lure you into providing sensitive information such as your credit card number, social security number or the pin number to your checking account.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an association focused on eliminating identity theft and fraud that result from phishing, there were over 86,000 phishing incidents reported worldwide in the 1st quarter of 2010*. Unfortunately, these types of scams are only growing more complicated. By misspelling a company name or rearranging an URL, these scammers can lead internet users to fake websites.
FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) offers several ways to protect yourself from phishing and general online identity theft.

• Beware of email requesting personal information
     Don’t reply or click on a link in an unsolicited email that asks for your credit card, bank or brokerage information, even if it looks like the email comes from the financial institution with which you do business.  When in doubt, go directly to the main website of the company.

• Leave suspicious websites
     If you think a website is not legitimate, leave it immediately. Legitimate firms typically offer customers multiple ways to contact them.

• Review your account statements
     This is your last line of defense. If you are victimized, the sooner you catch it, the better. Regularly review your online accounts or printed bank statements for unauthorized activity.

For more information click this link to read an article provided by FINRA on phishing and other online identity scams.

Additional Resources:

Information on phishing, spyware and other online threats

Information on indentity theft and how to file an online complaint

Phishing Attack Trends Report Q1 2010, Anti-Phishing Working Group, released September 23, 2010.

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