How to Avoid Online Scams
Tips for Avoiding and Surviving 'Phishing' Scams
Online scammers often use phony alert messages to hoodwink consumers into disclosing personal information that can later be used for identity theft, a scheme industry insiders call 'phishing.'
Phishing scams often take the guise of "urgent" emails or pop-ups from a familiar business organization -- such as a bank, internet provider or credit card company -- urging an immediate "validation" or "update" of personal information. The alert often warns of dire consequences if these steps are not taken, such as a voided credit card or internet account.
To avoid getting 'phished,' experts recommend the following:
Be Suspicious: Be wary of any email or pop-up asking for personal information, particularly an account number, username and password. It makes little sense that a bank or other financial institution could contact you without having your basic account information.
Don't Respond Immediately: Cons use provocative statements, such as the promise of a prize or the threat of an account termination, to get you to think less and react more. Chances are, the more extreme the message, the less likely it's authentic.
Get More Information: Contact the company directly -- preferably by phone -- to determine if a message is genuine. Credit card accountholders should call the toll-free number on the back of their cards, and bank customers should use the telephone number on their bank statements.
Don't Trust a Logo: Scammers often use the logos of legitimate companies to dupe consumers into thinking the message is from an official source. If an email sounds fishy, don't drop your suspicions just because the seal looks authentic.
If You Think a Message Is a Scam: Leave it alone. Don't click on any of the links out of curiosity since they may contain viruses. For preventative purposes, send copies of the email to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Think You've Been Conned: File a complaint, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft website to learn of the legal steps you may wish to take. Also order credit card and bank statements to monitor if any fraud has been committed.
Consult the following resources for more information on how to avoid, halt, and report phishing scams:
The Anti-Phishing Working Group is a global pan-industrial and law enforcement association focused on eliminating phishing and other types of internet fraud.