Fishing is a favorite summertime activity for millions of Americans.
Phishing, on the other hand, is a type of online identity theft. And unfortunately, those who perpetrate it seem to know no seasonal boundaries. Instead, they use email and fraudulent websites designed to steal personal data like passwords, credit card numbers and account data.
Fraudsters can use this information for nefarious activities such as stealing money from your account, opening new accounts in your name, or even obtaining official documents using your identity. So, your first question might be: How do I recognize a phishing email?
Here are a few tips:
- If it looks wrong, it’s probably wrong. Typos, the use of all capital letters in an email subject line, and multiple exclamation marks all are signs the email in question didn’t come from the source it represents.
- Check the sender’s email address carefully. If a particular company sends you emails regularly, they typically come from the same address. Another one, particularly if it looks strange, should be a warning sign.
- Be wary of urgent messages. Although reputable companies sometimes ask you to do something with urgency, threats and deadlines – especially to avoid your account being closed – can be a sign of phishing.
- Avoid embedded forms. If an email contains a form for you to fill in personal financial data or login information, be leery. Reputable companies rarely, if ever, make that kind of request.
- Study phone numbers and web links. If a company asks you to call a number and provide personal information, check that company’s website or some form of official previous correspondence to make sure it is the same number. Likewise, if asked to ‘click’ a link, hover your mouse over it to see if you’re actually being sent to the correct site.
If you believe you have received a phishing email, the tips are much simpler. Do not click on any links in the message. Instead, delete it.
Or, if you find yourself in the position of believing you have unwittingly responded to a phishing email, there are some steps you can take to minimize potential trouble.
- Contact the company directly.
- Contact your bank and change the passwords and/or PINs on any online accounts you think could be compromised.
- Close any accounts you know have been accessed fraudulently, and open new ones.
- Check your monthly bank and credit card statements for unexplained charges.
The FDIC* also suggests you 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.
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.