“Phishing” is the use of fraudulent e-mail designed to steal identities as well as vital personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account PINs, and passwords. Phishing e-mails often ask you to verify this type of information.
Scammers also go “SMishing,” or phishing using text messages, by asking you to verify or confirm sensitive information. Legitimate companies never ask for your password or account number via e-mail. Protect yourself:
- Call the company directly to determine if the email is trustworthy
- Forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in emails
- Contact the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a web site connected to the request; instead, use contact information from account statements that you already have.
- Don’t reply to the email, even if it threatens to disable your account.
Beware: Cash Top-Up Scams
Cash top-up cards can be a convenient way to transfer money to other accounts. They are not designed to be used directly with retailers or online merchants; rather they are used to reload money on accounts that you control, such as your debit card.
Unfortunately, scammers know the ease and convenience of using these cards. They persuade you to share your top-up card number directly with them instead of using a wire or escrow service. However, if you send the top-up number you’ll be left without the merchandise you were promised or your money. To protect yourself from these scams:
- Guard your top-up card like it is cash.
- Be wary of advertisements where you are asked to pay with a cash top-up card.
- Don’t share your top-up card number with someone you don’t know, even if a merchant asks you to e-mail it to them.
- Never use these cards to pay taxes or fees on lottery or sweepstakes winnings. It’s likely that you haven’t won anything.
Protect Your PIN
Beware of “shoulder surfers.” Be suspicious of anyone lurking around an ATM or watching over your shoulder while you use your card. Some thieves even put a device over the card slot of an ATM to read the magnetic strip and record your PIN; this is known as “skimming”. If you suspect criminal activity, walk away and use a different ATM.