A Publication of WTVP

Internet and telephone scams which fraudulently attempt to obtain and use your personal or financial information, referred to as phishing, pronounced fishing (Internet) and vishing (telephone), are on the rise. These scams encourage you to verify or update personal or confidential information such as ATM, credit card or debit card numbers as well as Social Security numbers, PIN numbers, passwords and bank account information. These emails and telephone calls will most likely warn you of an urgent situation that requires your immediate attention. They look and sound very legitimate and appear to come from reputable companies with whom you do business, such as your financial institution or other well-known and reputable entities. These people are pros; their calls and emails are professional, confident and friendly.

Identity theft is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, scammers are finding more and more ways to try to con us out of our personal information. With the sensitive information obtained from a successful phishing or vishing scam, these thieves can access your accounts, take out loans and obtain credit cards or even driver’s licenses in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take years to unravel, or worst of all, they can assume your identity. Knowing up front that no one with whom you do business, your bank or otherwise, will ever call or email you requesting sensitive information will take a lot of the worry out of receiving these calls and emails.

If you receive an email asking you to click on a link embedded in the message of the email, do not do so! This will take you to the scammer’s look-alike website in an effort to encourage you to divulge sensitive personal information. Once inside, you may be asked to provide your mother’s maiden name or your place of birth. In a similar way, telephone calls are made advising you to call an 800 or 888 number where, again, sensitive personal information is being requested. Do not be intimidated by these calls or emails, which often suggest dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify the requested information. If someone does call or email you, you can be safe in assuming it is a scam—simply hang up or delete the email.

If you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, perhaps because you submitted personal information in response to a suspicious, unsolicited email, or you see unauthorized charges on your credit card, you should immediately contact your financial institution and, if necessary, close existing accounts and open new ones. Also, contact the police and request a copy of any police report or case number for later reference. In addition, call the three major credit bureaus (Equifax at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and TransUnion at 800-680-7289) to request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. IBI