Identity Theft and Phishing
One way thieves can steal your identity is through phishing. It is pronounced "fishing," and that is exactly what these thieves are doing: "fishing" for your personal financial information like account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to loot your checking account or run up bills on your credit cards
With the sensitive information obtained from a successful phishing scam, these thieves can take out loans or obtain credit cards and even driver's licenses in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take years to unravel. But if you understand how phishing works and how to protect yourself, you can help stop it from happening to you.
Phishers often send an email that claims to be from a business or organization that you deal with--your Internet Service Provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message usually says that you need to "update" or "validate" your account information. It might threaten some dire consequence if you don't respond. The message directs you to a Web site that looks just like a legitimate organization's site, but it isn't. The purpose of the bogus site? To trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
How to Report Identity Theft
If you have disclosed sensitive information in a phishing attack, you should also contact one of the three major credit bureaus and discuss whether you need to place a fraud alert on your file, which will help prevent thieves from opening a new account in your name. Here is the contact information for each bureau’s fraud division:
- Equifax or by phone at 1-866-349-5191
- Experian or by phone at 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion or by phone at 1-800-916-8800
Report all suspicious contacts to the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft(Opens in a new Window), or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT
Tips to Help Avoid Identity Theft
- Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request.
- If you are unsure if a contact is legitimate, contact your financial institution yourself from verified, genuine contact information like a bank statement or browsing session from a new browser window.
- Never provide your password over the phone or in response to an unsolicited Internet request.
- Never click on the links provided in an email.
- Protect your Social Security Number (SSN), credit card and debit card numbers, PINs (personal identification numbers), passwords and other personal information.
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail.
- Keep your financial trash "clean” by shredding sensitive information.
- Keep a close watch on your bank account statements and credit card bills.
- Review your credit record regularly. You can sign up for free credit record access through a third party service like Credit Karma, or directly from the credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, or Transunion.
- Never access bank, brokerage or other financial services information over public wifi. Unauthorized software may be installed to trap an account number and login information, leaving you vulnerable to possible fraud