There is a type of identity theft using the Internet called "phishing." Pronounced "fishing," that's exactly what thieves are doing, fishing for your personal financial information. They want your account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information so they can use your financial accounts or run up bills on your credit cards.
In the worst case, you could find yourself a victim of identity theft. With the sensitive information obtained from a successful phishing scam, these thieves can take out loans or obtain credit cards and even a driver's license in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take years to unravel. If you understand how phishing works and how to protect yourself, you can help stop this crime.
How phishing works
Typically, you'll receive an email that appears to come from a reputable company that you recognize and may do business with, such as your financial institution. In some cases, the email may appear to come from a government agency, perhaps a federal financial institution regulatory agency.
The email will probably warn you of a serious problem that requires your immediate attention. It may use phrases such as "Immediate attention required," or "Please contact us immediately about your account." The email may also state that unless you provide certain confidential information your account will be deactivated or closed. The email will encourage you to click a link to go to the institution's Website.
In a phishing scam, you could be redirected to a phony Website that may look exactly like the real thing. Sometimes, in fact, it may be the company's actual Website. In those cases, a pop-up window will quickly appear for the purpose of collecting your financial information.
You may be asked to update your account information or to provide information for verification purposes: your Social Security number, your account number, your password, or the information you use to verify your identity when speaking to your financial institution, such as your mother's maiden name or your place of birth.
If you provide the requested information, you may find yourself a victim of identity theft.
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