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Money IQ: Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams

on September 26, 2012 - 11:18am
Money IQ
By Corrie Hanavan

Protect Yourself From Phishing Scams

As technology becomes more advanced, so does the importance of protecting your personal information. With the downturn in the economy, identity theft and fraudulent activity has increased significantly. 

There are many ways that scammers try to obtain the information necessary to either steal your identity or your account information.

One technique is by phishing, pronounced “fishing,” through emails. This column will help you learn ways to identify phishing scams and what to do if you are subjected to a scam.

Phishing is a form of online identity theft. The most common attempt seen is an email that appears to be from a real company, such as Amazon, eBay, credit card companies or banks.

Within the email, they give a reason for the victim to take action immediately, either by stating that their account will be suspended or deactivated unless they click on a link that is provided.

They may also try to get the victim to click on the link by saying that there has been a problem with their account and they need to re-enter their personal information.

By clicking on the link, the victim is directed to a fake site that looks similar to the legitimate site and asks for personal information such as date of birth, social security number, email, username, password, etc. 

Imagine receiving an email from your bank stating that an error has occurred with your account and in order to resolve the issue you must click on a link provided in the email, otherwise your account will be deactivated.

Immediately you click on the link and provide your personal information as you are prompted and get to a screen stating that your account has now been reactivated.

What you may not know is that by entering in all of your personal data, you just handed over the tools to a thief to steal your identity.

The best way to protect yourself from becoming exposed to identity thieves is to know how they acquire your personal information.

Legitimate companies will never ask for your personal information through email communication. Pay attention to the details in the email.

Even if the sender looks as if it could be from a real company, email addresses could be spoofed. Phishing emails will usually use a generic greeting instead of your name and have spelling and/or grammar errors. Be cautious of any link sent to you within an email. 

Clicking on the link can direct your browser to a fake website or have malware installed on your computer. Hover over the link with your mouse and see if the site name is the same. 

It is always safer to not click on the link, but to type the address in your browser yourself.

If you do fall victim to one of these phishing scams, the first thing you should do is report it to the business that is being spoofed.

Get in contact with any bank, lending, or credit institution regarding the information that you received. Change your password for the site you believe was spoofed and any other sites that you use the same passwords. 

Report the phishing scam to either the Federal Trade Commission or to National Fraud Information Center.

Your personal information is very important and should not be disclosed to anyone carelessly. Even if you feel the email may be legitimate, it is always better to take the extra precautions in protecting yourself. 

The cost to repair damage done if your identity is stolen is far greater than the additional time it takes to ensure you are not falling for one of their tactics.

Although new ways to get personal information from people are discovered every day, self-awareness and being cautious with how and who you give it to is a step in the right direction.

Be aware of the sites you are visiting that are asking for personal information and whenever in doubt always contact the company directly with any questions or concerns.

Editor's note: Corrie Hanavan is the IT Administrative Assistant for Los Alamos National Bank. She moved from Colorado to Los Alamos in January with her fiancé who joined the Los Alamos Fire Department.

  • Look for Money IQ every Wednesday in the Los Alamos Daily Post.

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