Phishing scams

A few years ago I got an email from a Nigerian business man saying that I had a great great uncle who was doing business with him and I needed to collect his inheritance of close to $5 million. All I needed to do was provide my checking account information. Most of us recognize that this is a scam, but on the other hand we probably think $5 million isn’t too shabby of a deal. The Nigerian letter scam is pretty well known ( it’s apparently the country’s 3rd largest export and scams 100s of people a day), but there are several other scams that get people on a daily basis. These are called phishing scams. So not only does a lesson on phishing and email scams play into a financial literacy lesson, but also a digital literacy for understanding trustworthy websites.

Here is some information on what you need to know about phishing scams from the National Consumers League:

How does phishing work?

  • The most common form of phishing is by email. Pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, or government agency, the sender asks to “confirm” your personal information for some made-up reason. Typically, the email contains a link to a phony Web site that looks just like the real thing. You enter your personal information on the Web site — and send it into the hands of identity thieves.
  • Phishers also use the phone to hunt for victims’ personal information. Some pose as employers and call or send emails to people who have listed themselves on job search Web sites.

How can you tell if the person or company who contacted you is legitimate or a con artist?

  • Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information. It’s a warning sign that something is “phishy.” Legitimate companies and agencies don’t operate that way.
  • Don’t click on links in emails that ask you to provide personal information. To check whether an email or call is really from the company or agency, contact it directly by phone or online. If you don’t have the telephone number, get it from the phone book, directory assistance, or the Internet. Use a search engine to find the official Web site;
  • Job seekers should also verify the person’s identity before providing personal information to someone claiming to be a prospective employer.

What should you do if you got hooked by a phishing scam?

  • If you provided account numbers, PINs, or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with which you have those accounts immediately.
  • Put a “fraud alert” on your files at the credit reporting bureaus. For information about how to do that and other advice for ID theft victims, contact the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft  Clearinghouse at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or toll-free, 877-438-4338. The TDD number is 202-326-2502.
  • Even if you didn’t get hooked, you should report phishing to company or agency that was being impersonated and to the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center, www.fraud.org or toll-free 800-876-7060. The TDD number is 202-835-0778.

For more information on scams or fraud related to literacy, check out our website! 

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