Beware of Bogus E-mail to Obtain Personal Data
The use of e-mail is increasing by all groups, including retirees. Unfortunately criminals are also increasingly turning to e-mail as a means to defraud individuals.
I recently returned to the office after being out of town for three days and checked my e-mail. I found three e-mails that were apparently from Bank of America, Citibank and PayPal, all indicating that there was suspected activity on my accounts and to immediately click on the link within each e-mail to confirm important information about my account.
I did call each company, and none had, in fact, sent me an e-mail.
I had been an intended victim of “phishing,” which involves an official looking e-mail from a large bank or other online services vendor. These e-mails report a potential problem with your account and tell you that you are required to confirm private information or details immediately. This confirmation asks for you to enter credit card data, Social Security numbers, account numbers and/or passwords.
These e-mails are not from the companies, but rather unscrupulous individuals with the sole purpose of ID theft and causing you economic distress.
According to Scamdex, a company that is an “Internet Scam Resource,” there are six typical Internet e-mail scams:
(1) Advance Fee Fraud: Payment is required to “‘release” some much larger amount, which is held by a third party.
(2) Lottery Scams: Payment is required to get your huge unsolicited lottery winnings transferred into your country and bank account.
(3) Phishing: Official-looking e-mails from large Internet banking and online services (PayPal, eBay, South Trust, US Bank, etc.), which ask you to confirm some details.
(4) Auction Scams: Simple scams using eBay or Craigslist to take your money, your property or both.
(5) Employment Scams: Employment is offered processing international payments. A certified check is paid into your bank account; then you deduct your “commission” and send on the rest.
(6) Financial/Investment Scams: Including High Yield Investment Plans, Ponzi schemes, fake “affiliate” schemes and Multi-Level Marketing scams – these are offers of huge unrealistic returns on investments, which turn out to be fraudulent, illegal or nonexistent.
Tips to protect yourself from e-mail fraud include:
(1) If the e-mail is in your “spam-catcher,” it has been sent to many others and is not an individual e-mail directed only to you. Good chance it is bogus.
(2) Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information.
(3) Don’t EVER use the links in an e-mail to get to any Web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic.
(4) Call the company on the telephone, or log onto the Web site directly by typing the Web address in your browser or using your own bookmarked link.
(5) Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal financial information.
(6) Always ensure that you’re using a secure Web site when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser or provide it over the phone.
(7) If you have the slightest uncertainty about an e-mail — stop, ask for a second opinion by talking to family or knowledgeable friends.
(8) Check out reported scams on Spamdex.org.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Identity theft, credit card fraud and other schemes are more common than ever. Make sure you do not become a victim.