Being Phished? What to do!

Dennis Faas's picture

Do you think you've been a victim of a phishing scam?

First of all, don't call or write us here at Infopackets! Unfortunately, we can't do anything for you, other than tell others to be careful! But here are some things you can do that will help ...

Phishing is done through email and it is a big problem. In the past year alone, I have received thousands of emails that included huge lottery winnings from just about everyone in Europe, folks that were dying from cancer, car and plane crashes, and, of all things, tooth decay, part time job offers, and all sorts of "official" messages from Nigeria, Europe, the UK, and other places. Total dollar amount offered has totaled a bit over $1.3 BILLION. I wish just .01% of all that was real money and not phony-bologna.

The American Banking Association and the Financial Education Corporation say it like this:

"Internet 'phishing' scams are one of the fastest growing frauds today. Phishing typically a bogus email that uses legitimate materials, such as a company's Web site graphics and logos, in an attempt to entice email recipients to provide personal financial details such as credit card numbers and social security identification numbers."

Some things to watch for are lotteries that you haven't entered telling you your number was drawn, major corporations like Microsoft or Toyota telling you they have chosen your email address when you haven't emailed anything to them, or governmental departments that say they are offering funds to catch scammers. You could also hear from almost every bank in the world asking you to verify your account numbers and access information.

I had one just the other day (actually 3 of them) that were supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service here in the US that asked for my Visa or MasterCard account number so they could pay me a "correction refund". Strangely enough, each email had a different amount mentioned ranging from over $300 to under $100. Obviously an attempt to get my credit card account number.

Three simple precautions you can use to keep from getting scammed are as follows:

1. Never respond to an unsolicited email that asks for detailed financial information. Know whom you dealing with.

2. Report anything suspicious to the proper authorities. Alert the company or government agency identified in the email through a Web address or telephone number that you know is correct.

3. Contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center) if you think you have received a phishing email or have been directed to a "phishy-looking" Web site.

The Department of Justice advises email users to "Stop, Look, and Call" if they receive a suspicious email.

  • STOP Resist the urge to immediately respond to a suspicious email and to provide the information requested despite urgent or exaggerated claims.
  • LOOK Read the text of the email several times and ask yourself why the information requested would really be needed.
  • CALL Telephone the organization identified, using a number that you know to be legitimate and ask about the email.

Even with all that in mind, it's still easy to get snared, but what can you do to fix it afterwards? Here are a few things that might help

First, contact your bank or credit union immediately. Don't be shy about it either. Most of the successfully scammed folks feel embarrassed to admit they were "taken" and the scammer gets away with their money and ID.

If you gave out your credit card number, call all 3 (in the US) credit bureaus as soon as possible and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. The bureaus and their phone numbers are: Equifax, 1-800-325-6285; Experian, 1-888-307-3742; and TransUnion, 1-800-680-7289.

Next, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or call 1-877-382-4357.

All those are, of course, for folks here in the US. Canadians have similar government agencies and Credit Bureaus that will be listed with their local telephone providers.

It's a pain, wastes your time, and could potentially cost you your life savings if you aren't careful. But Phishing can be thwarted by following the above suggestions.

Have fun with your computer, not headaches!

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