You can fight Identity Theft
Never provide personal financial information, including your Social Security Number, account numbers, or passwords - over the phone or the Internet - if you did not initiate the contact.
Never click on any links provided in an e-mail you believe is fraudulent. It may contain a virus that can compromise your computer.
Do not be intimidated by an e-mail or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify your financial information.
If you believe the contact is legitimate, go to the company's website by typing in the site address directly, or using a page you have previously bookmarked, instead of clicking a link provided in an e-mail.
What to do if you believe you are the victim of Identity Theft or fraud:
Contact your financial institution immediately and alert them to the situation.
If you have disclosed sensitive information, contact one of the three (3) 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.
Phishing, pronounced "fishing," describes exactly what these Internet thieves are doing: "fishing" for your personal financial information. What they want are account numbers, passwords, Social Security Numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to compromise your checking account 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 driver's licenses in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take years to unravel. However, if you understand how phishing works and how to protect yourself, you can help stop it before it starts.
Here's how phishing works:
In a typical case, you'll receive an e-mail that appears to come from a reputable company that you recognize and do business with, such as your financial institution. In some cases, the e-mail may appear to come from a government agency - like the IRS or Social Security Administration.
The e-mail 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 e-mail will then encourage you to click on a link or button to go to the institution's web site.
In a phishing scam, you could be redirected to a phony web site that may look exactly like the real thing. Sometimes, in fact, it may be the company's actual web site. In those cases, a pop-up window will quickly appear for the purpose of harvesting your financial information.
In either case, 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 a real financial institution, such as your mother's maiden name or your place of birth.
If you provide the requested information, you may find yourself the victim of identity theft.
How to protect yourself:
Never provide your personal information in response to an unsolicited request, whether it is over the phone or over the Internet. E-mails and Internet pages created by people who are phishing may look exactly like the real thing. These pages may even have a fake padlock icon that ordinarily is used to denote a secure site. If you did not initiate the communication, you should not provide any information.
If you believe that the contact may be legitimate, contact the financial institution yourself. You can find phone numbers and web sites on the monthly statements you receive from your financial institution, or you can search from contact information for the institution in a phone book or on the Internet. The key is that you should be the one to initiate the contact, using contact information that you have verified yourself.
Never provide your password over the phone or in response to an unsolicited Internet request. A financial institution would never ask you to verify your account information online. Thieves armed with this information and your account number can help themselves to your savings and much more.
Review account statements regularly to ensure all charges are correct. If your account statement is late in arriving, call your financial institution to find out why. If your financial institution offers electronic account access, periodically review your account online to catch any suspicious activity.