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Thieves are actively pursuing your personal information by phone and email by posing as a legitimate financial institution, or a corporation like eBay or PayPal. They seek your account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to access your checking account or credit cards. Email scams like this are known as "phishing". By phone, these scams are known as "vishing".

Avoiding Phishing Scams

Be weary of emails asking you to provide (or update) your information, especially when fear tactics are used such as warnings that your account will be locked if you do not provide the requested information. Links in fraudulent emails will take you to websites that look like the imposed vendor, but the web address will not be the vendor's official url. Instead of clicking the link in the email, go to that vendor's site directly and log into your account. If your information truly needs to be updated, you can determine that there.

Avoiding Vishing Scams

Vishing scams come in two varieties. The first is conducted solely by phone. You receive a phone call, usually by an automated dialer, and are told that the privacy of your credit card account or some other account has been compromised. You are then told to call a certain number immediately to "verify information” related to her account.

The second type of vishing is just like the first, except you receive an email, not a call. The message is like that of a phishing email, but instead of clicking a link you are asked to make a call.

Either way, when you call the number, an automated system asks for things like your account number, password, birth date, and Social Security number.

Be wary of any unsolicited communication where you are asked to provide information. In addition, be especially skeptical of calls from automated systems or ones where the speaker does not address you by name. If you suspect someone is vishing, hang up immediately. If the caller is a live person, just say you’ll call back later. Then call back at a number you know to be legitimate, such as a number on your statement or the back of your credit card. Never give out personal information by phone unless you initiated the call and are sure you used the right number.

What to do if you think you are a victim of a phishing or vishing scam:

  • Contact your financial institution and let them know that your account information may have been compromised.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit file: Equifax (800) 525-6285, Experian (888) 397-3742 and TransUnion (800) 680-7289. T
  • Report all fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission or call (877) IDTHEFT.
  • File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center of the FBI.
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