Protecting Yourself from Online Fraud

 

Bogus emails are frequently sent to consumers for the sole purpose of stealing personal and financial information.  Fraudsters may also include links in an email that direct individuals to bogus websites which also attempt to gather sensitive personal information from unsuspecting website visitors.

 

These attempts to steal personal and financial information are referring to as "Phishing" or "fishing" scams.   Phishing scams are usually delivered in the form of a cleverly disguised legitimate e-mails claiming to be from sources you trust, such as your bank, your credit card company, e-bay, pay-pal, regulators such as the FDIC, and various law enforcement agencies.  These phony emails attempt to entice you to provide various types of personal and confidential information, such as your bank account number, your SSN, your PIN number, your mother's maiden name, your Internet banking passcodes, etc.  Criminals use the collected information to access deposit accounts, apply for online access, open new accounts, loans and/or credit cards.

 

How to Recognize Phishing Attempts

 

Financial Institution X will never ask for personal or financial information from our customers through an email message, but recognizing phishing attempts is not always easy. The criminals are becoming more creative and sophisticated in making bogus emails and websites look legitimate.  Most of these phony emails include the following characteristics:

  • General greetings (e.g. Dear valued Bank Customer);

  • Urgent or threatening appeals (e.g." Please contact us immediately regarding your account").

  • Links that take you to a bogus website and/or pop-up window asking you to provide sensitive personal, financial or account information.

Sometimes times a link in a bogus email may actually take you to a legitimate website, but in these cases, a pop-up message may appear that requests your personal information. Some of these emails may also include unfamiliar return addresses and/or mispellings and/or grammatical errors.

 

 Tips for Online Protection

  • As a general rule you should always be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. 

  • Always be wary of any email asking for your personal information.

  • Never provide personal financial information, including your Social Security Number, account numbers, or passwords over the phone or the Internet if you did not initiate the contact.

  • Never click on a link in an email, especially if you think it may be fraudulent.

  • If you believe the contact maybe legitimate, visit the company's website by typing in the site address directly or using a previously saved bookmark instead of clicking on an embedded email link.

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails from any source.

  • Don't be intimidated by threatening emails.

  • Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.

  • Always be certain to whom you are providing personal or financial information.  Contact the sender using a telephone number you know to be genuine.

  • Look for a secure connection on Web sites asking for personal or account information, normally indicated by the presence of "https://" in your browser's address bar.

  • Always sign off Web sites or secure areas of Web sites (for example, Internet Banking) 

  • Avoid using public computers to check online accounts.

  • Regularly log into your online accounts to check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate.

  • Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date.

  • Make sure you have applied the latest security patches for your computer.  Most software providers, like Microsoft, offer free security patches.

  • If you have broad-band Internet access (e.g. cable modem or DSL) make sure that you have a firewall.

  • Consider using pop-up blocker and software that detects spyware on your computer.

  • If you think you may have provided personal or account information in response to a fraudulent e-mail or Web site, contact us immediately. 

Phishing is becoming one of the leading causes of identity theft.  Please be careful with whom you share your personal information.