For those of us who are not aware of all the tricks of the Internet and email, identity theft can be a serious problem. Even those of us who have used the Internet for years can be caught off guard by a cleverly designed scam. You have probably received lots of emails from unknown sources asking you for information. Almost anyone who has used the Internet or email recently cannot avoid these annoying, and potentially criminal communications. Few of us realize just how much identity theft occurs through the Internet these days. Millions upon millions of dollars are lost every year because of the free exchange of information that is such a large part of what makes the Internet so great. Emails sent to you that ask for basic information (bank account info, address, social security number, etcâ€¦) are called phishing scams. As you can imagine, they are called phishing scams because the person sending them is phishing for you, trying to get you to believe that what you are seeing is not a hook. Many phishing scams disguise themselves by pretending to be a communication from someone you should respond toâ€”your bank, the government, your school. Most of the time they suggest that they need your information immediately in order to make some sort of important transaction or to prevent a serious problem. If you receive one of these emails do not, and I mean never, respond to it.
When you respond to a phishing scam with personal information you can almost always be sure that you are about to be robbed. Someone will use the information to purchase things online, collect on your social security, or sell your information to the highest bidder. So how can you avoid a phishing scam? You might think that you will always be smart enough to catch phishing scams, although you should know that many of these things are extremely sophisticated. If you think you will never be fooled you will probably get clumsy and pay for it at some point.
The best way to avoid a phishing scam is to set some basic ground rules. Realize that despite whatever security measures you install on your computer, you will probably receive phishing scam emails. So the best policy is to never communicate personal information in an email to someone that you do not know well. Obviously you could send some of this information to your trusted uncle Oscar, but then why would you need to do so in the first place? If you can communicate this type of information over the phone, then do so, because you can at least make sure that you are communicating with the person that you think you are. If you receive emails from banks or some other important institution with which you have an account or relationship, call the institution before you send anything in an email. This verifies that the communication is real or fake and will help you to protect your identity.
If you follow this one rule you will find that phishing scams have no power at all. In fact, if everyone were to follow the phishing scam rule and never send any personal information through emails, these criminals would be out of a job. Many people who use the Internet are too trusting and gullible to avoid these scams, but if they know a basic rule it won’t matter how sophisticated the identity thieves become. So watch out for phishing scams and never send any personal information through emails and you will avoid a very serious form of identity theft.