Congratulations, you’ve won!
Did you really win the prize? Does a foreign bank have money for you from an unknown relative? If you’re like most people, you have something in your spam folder or an unrecognized email in your inbox right now. Some are from legitimate senders, but others offer the opportunity to buy pharmaceuticals from Canada, notify you of lottery or other winnings, request your help in moving money out of a foreign country or some other supposedly financially advantageous situation. But the unfortunate reality in the majority of these cases is that someone wants to steal your identity.
They say you’ve won, but in the end you lose.
Spamming has grown along with the growth in social networking. These spams try to get you to click on a link, go to a website and provide sensitive personal information. In many cases, the crooks take some of your money and disappear. But in extreme instances, your bank accounts are emptied and your available credit used up.
Typical scam emails attempting identity theft involve representing a financial institution, retailer or other trusted entity attempting to you sell you goods or services, or asking you to update or provide financial information for your account.
But how do you know?
When reviewing a questionable email, one of the first things to look for is incorrect spelling or bad grammar. Many phishing emails are poorly written or have frequently misspelled words. Also, look for links within the email, and don’t click on them. If you place your mouse over the link and view the address, you may find it does not match the party that the email is purportedly from. If the language in the email is threatening, alarmist, requires you to do something immediately or promises you money with little or no effort on your part, think again. Most banks and other legitimate businesses and organizations do not send emails requesting important personal information.
Make common sense more common.
If you receive an email from a financial institution or company you have an account with, and it requests urgent action, simply place a call to the company using a number on a statement or card to see if it is a valid request. If you receive notice of a package containing money, or that you’ve won a lottery or are asked to accept a foreign funds transfer, realize that no money would need to be paid nor any sensitive information required if it were legitimate.
† Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.
† Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.