Have you received email with a similar message? It’s a scam called “phishing” — and it involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with (for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency). The message may ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site. But it isn’t. It’s a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
The FTC suggests these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don’t click on the link in the message, either.
- Use anti-virus software and a firewall, and keep them up to date.
- Don’t email personal or financial information.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Forward spam that is phishing for information to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email.
- If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
You can learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam at www.ftc.gov/spam.
You can also visit the F.B.I.'s site on consumer fraud at www.fbi.gov/majcases/fraud/fraudschemes.htm.