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Phishing Schemes: Don’t Get Caught! - Sunday, December 1, 2013
Thieves continuously look for ways to steal your information and they don’t have to take your purse or break into your house to get it.  Through phishing schemes thieves convince consumers to voluntarily hand over their valuable personal information every day. 

What makes this matter worse is that most consumers who have been scammed are too embarrassed to report the crime.  Here’s an explanation of phishing schemes, how to recognize and avoid them, and what to do if you are a victim.

What is phishing?
This is a phone, email or internet scheme where consumers are tricked into sharing their personal and banking information.  Scammers either call or send a legitimate looking email to a large number of people in order to get them to share their personal and financial information.   This kind of phishing is similar to real fishing because lines are cast to a multitude of prey in hopes that some will take the bait.

How does it work?
The scammer’s contact with consumers often looks and sounds like official and legitimate business and contains a threat or warning that the consumer’s "account” has been compromised or will be closed unless immediate action is taken. Then the consumer is directed to a representative or to an e-mail link where account information is needed to assist the consumer further.  Here the victim is prompted to enter in their valuable data which is then used for identity and financial theft.  Often email phishing schemes also contain "malicious code” which can cause viruses, worms and other security compromises on the victim’s computer system.

How do I recognize phishing?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns people to be wary of any contact from "businesses” requesting "updated” personal and financial information, especially if the content contains threats which include closing or suspending your "accounts”.   Consumers who are suspicious of this scheme should not use any of the contact information or links included in the suspicious email or call, instead look up the company and contact them directly to verify your account status. 

What you need to know:
Never respond to emails, texts or phone calls which demand your personal information or threaten to close your account if you don’t give them information.  Always hang up then initiate contact on your own.  Also, remember that your credit union or bank will not call you and ask for your personal information.  If you are unsure about the legitimacy of the company in question, look up the contact information on your own then make contact.

What to do if you have been scammed:
Forward the e-mail to or call the FTC help line at 1-877-FTC-HELP.