by Susan Rushing
“Your account appears to have an unauthorized transaction. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
Sound familiar? That message is from a recent phishing attempt I received via email. In the act of phishing, Internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages in hopes of gaining access to your personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information). The email looks official and raises concern and may even threaten dire consequences if you do not respond. They include a link to a website that looks official, but isn’t, and captures any personal information you enter so they may steal your identity.
Now, the same type of scam is finding its way to you via your cellular phone. In a smishing attempt, identity thieves send a similar message to your mobile phone using an SMS text. The text relays that an urgent matter needs to be discussed and provides a toll free number where a fake automated voice-response system records account number and password information. Smishing relies on the tendency for individuals to be more trusting of text messages than email messages.
In a world where fraudsters are looking for any opportunity to gain access to our private information, how do we defend ourselves? The American Bankers Association suggests financial institutions share tips and remind customers that socially engineered schemes rely on methods financial institution would never employ.
“To avoid fraud, banks and credit unions should remind customers to”:
- Never give out personal or financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax, e-mail or text.
- Contact the financial institution to confirm the legitimacy of any e-mail that asks for the submission of personal or banking account information.
- Check credit card and bank account statements regularly for unauthorized transactions…even small ones.
- Make sure websites are secure when submitting financial information online. Check for padlocks or key icons at the bottoms of Internet browsers. Most secure Web addresses also use “https.”
- Report suspicious activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.
- Contact your financial institution immediately if a phishy link may have been clicked or a suspicious communication responded to.
What have you done to prevent identity theft?