A common way for Internet scammers to obtain your personal information is through a method called phishing. Usernames, passwords, banking information and credit card details are phished through email or instant messaging. Phishing works by sending communications, which appear to be from your financial institution, but they are not. You are asked, supposedly by your financial institution, to log in to your online banking to verify account information. Often some type of security concern is cited as the issue. The fake email instructs you to click on a link that takes you to a non-legitimate version of your online banking site – one that is largely indistinguishable from the legitimate site – and you'll be asked to enter your credentials.
Phishing emails may include:
- Warnings about account closures
- Requests to update your information
- Offers to register for a new service
- Offers for pre-approved credit cards
- Free virus-protection programs
Once you click on the link, which directs you to a phishing website, you'll be prompted to enter personal or banking information. Phishing scams seek personal details, such as your address, social security number or mother's maiden name. The details obtained will then be used for identity theft.
Scam emails purporting to be from your credit card company or financial institution often have some telling signs, including:
- Poor spelling or grammar
- Alarmist content, warning that your account will be closed if you don't provide your banking or personal details immediately
- Notices that you've won a prize and are required to pay a fee in order to claim it
Never provide personal details or any account details in an email. Electronic messaging is not a secure form of communication. If you receive a message that you are unsure about, please contact us.