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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Beware of the Newest Activity Online: Phishing

No. I’m not talking here about the outdoor activity enjoyed
by many. And no again; I did not misspell it. Phishing is
the name given to the latest online scam where millions of
unwary Americans are getting their identities stolen.

This fraudulent activity is considered the fastest growing
crime of modern times. The favorite target groups of
phishers seem to be very young children and senior citizens,
as they do not often ask for credit reports, fill out credit
card applications or solicit loans. This allows the thieves
to go undetected for longer periods of time; but still, be
careful. We all are potential targets.

Remember when throwing away unshredded documents with
personal information in the trash bin was considered a big
risk for identity theft? While this still happens, identity
thieves have become more sophisticated in recent times, and
this is how they do it…

Phishers create bogus e-mails that look as if they came from
large, well-known institutions and banks, such as eBay,
Paypal, Citibank, EarthLink, and Wells Fargo among others.
These e-mails claim that you are due for an account update,
or that the account number, password, social security number
or other confidential information needs to be verified. Then
they warn you, stating that if you do not do it within a
certain period of time, that your account will be closed,
terminated, the service discontinued, or something to that

They even provide you with links to websites that look
legitimate, because they hijack the real logos of these
well known banks, and trusted institutions and companies.
And that is the scary part… these e-mails look 100%
legitimate, but they are not.

In some cases it goes even further… some of these phishers
are installing spyware on your computer to monitor your
online activities. So… should you leave the online world for
good? Not necessarily.

These are a few things you can do to protect yourself from
these scammers:

1. Do not respond to any e-mail that asks for personal
information from you, such as account number, credit card
number, user names, passwords, etc. If you suspect that the
e-mail, indeed, be legitimate, contact your bank or
institution to verify this.

2. When in doubt, visit the Anti-Phishing Working Group for
an update of the latest scams, and tips to avoid becoming a
victim. The website’s URL is

3. Websites like,, and, offer security tips and tell you what
information they’d never ask for in an e-mail.

4. Get anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date.

5. If you suspect you have received a fraudulent e-mail, do
not click on any links within it, and forward it to the FTC

Finally, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of this fraud,
get a copy of your credit report immediately to check for
unusual activity. If you discover that you’ve been a victim
of identity theft, close your account at once and…

- Call the Credit Bureau.

- File a police report.

- Call the FTC ID theft hotline at (877)IDTHEFT.

- Alert other financial institutions where you have accounts.

According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishers send
millions of e-mails a day, getting about 5% response. Even
with this low response, it is estimated that about 150,000
Americans have fallen prey to these scams since May of 2004.
Get informed. Do not become a victim yourself.

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