E-mail scams are circulating the internet, deceiving consumers into giving up their personal information and sometimes their identity. Jacquelyn Rhodes is one of those victims. "It looked really official in big bold letters, saying the account would be closed in 24 hours, if I didn't do it. It would be terminated and I didn't want that to happen." Rhodes is talking about an e-mail that she received from her internet provider, stating her service would be canceled if she didn't update her account information. "There was a hyper link and I clicked on it and it took me to a different page. It said AOL billing center and it looked totally official."
But the website wasn't official. It was a scam that stole Rhodes's personal information. "I realized I was scammed when later that evening I logged back on and the master screen name was already logged on and no one in the house was online."
The scam is called 'Phishing'. Consumer Protection Expert Sally Hurme explains, "Phishing is an online scam that uses spam and the internet to deceive consumers into disposing their personal and financial information. The scammers then use that information to commit identity theft."
Here's how it works. The scammer will send you an e-mail, claiming to be from a company you probably do business with like your internet provider, a bank or credit card company. It will give you a link to update your account information. Hurme says, "The consumer clicks on the link and will go to a web page that looks identical to the one being spoofed and a consumer who enters their information on the web page thinks it is going to the company but it isn't. It's going to the scammer instead." Hurme says, Phishing is a two way scam. "First the company is scammed when their images and logos are stolen and secondly the consumer is scammed in the stealing of the identity and personal information."
Patti Poss with the Federal Trade Commission says the best thing to do is delete the e-mail. "Companies don't do this. They don't get in touch with you this way. Only criminals do."
To protect your identity from internet scammers, practice the following safety solutions. Never give out your personal or financial information online ever. Call companies you do business with directly. Do not click on links, provided in an e-mail. If you think you've been scammed, call the three major credit reporting companies immediately so they can put a red flag on your credit account. You can reach the companies as follows:
You should also call the Federal Trade Commission and file a report. You can call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338 or ( click here ) to file a complaint online however, if you're more comfortable with going to that website directly after reading this report, that address is ( www.ftc.gov).
The latest Phishing scam is under investigation by the FBI and FDIC. The e-mail claims to come from the FDIC, telling you to update your bank account information or you will be in violation of the Patriot Act. If you get an e-mail like this or others, you're urged to report it immediately. You can send that claim to ( firstname.lastname@example.org).