Internet “phishing” scams are one of the fastest-growing frauds today.
While it looks like a funny word, it is something to take very seriously. Phishing expeditions can range from an elaborate website with fake graphics and logos to a simple text email offering a great mortgage rate. Both are designed for one purpose: to collect email recipients’ personal financial details, such as credit card numbers, bank account usernames and passwords.
By hijacking the trusted brands of banks, online retailers, credit card companies and even government agencies, fraudsters are able to trick some consumers into handing over their personal financial information.
How to protect yourself
• Never respond to an unsolicited email that asks for detailed financial information.
• When submitting financial information to a website, look for the padlock icon in your browser, normally near the Internet address, and make sure the address begins with “https.”
• If you have not already done so, sign up for online banking. Check your credit card and bank account transactions and balances online regularly and report discrepancies immediately.
• Use antivirus and antispyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.
• Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, if you think you have received a phishing email or have been directed to a suspicious website.
“Stop, look and call”
The Department of Justice advises consumers to “stop, look and call” if they receive a suspicious email.
• Stop. Resist that impulse to click or respond immediately. No matter how upsetting or exciting the statements in the email may be, take the time to check out the information more closely.
• Look. Read the text of the email and ask yourself if the claims make sense, especially if personal financial information is being requested.
• Call. Telephone the organization identified, using a number that you know to be legitimate (taken from a phone book, for example).
If you become a victim
If you believe you’ve given out sensitive financial information to a fraudster, you should:
• Report the incident to your financial institution as quickly as possible. If you are an MBT customer we will direct you to our identity theft expert to help guide you through the process.
• Contact these three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report: Equifax, 800-525-6285; Experian, 888-397-3742; and TransUnion, 800-680-7289.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or (877) 382-4357, or the Anti-Phishing Working Group at www.antiphishing.org.