Recently, 38 people were arrested and charged in conjunction with a global crime ring for stealing names, Social Security numbers, credit card data, and other personal information from unsuspecting Internet users. The Romanian-based phishing scam had ripped off thousands of consumers and hundreds of financial institutions in the United States, Canada, Portugal, and Pakistan. U.S. Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip told the Associated Press,“International organized crime poses a serious threat not only to the United States and Romania, but to all nations. Criminals who exploit the power and convenience of the Internet do not recognize national borders; therefore our efforts to prevent their attacks cannot end at our borders.”
Phishing takes place when scammers send emails to a user that falsely claim to come from an established legitimate enterprise (usually a bank or credit card company) in an attempt to obtain private information that will be used for identity thefts. The email directs the user to a website where he or she is asked to update personal information that the legitimate organization already has. The website, however, is bogus and is only set up to steal the user’s information.
There are several steps you can take to keep from being a victim of phishing, including these:
- Be cautious of email asking for personal information
- Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your personal information
- Be aware of “pharming,” which tricks your computer so your Web browser will take you to false versions of websites that may steal any information you enter
- Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen
- Protect your computer with spam filters, antivirus and antispyware software, and a firewall
- Only open email attachments you are expecting and know what they contain
- Be aware that phishing also occurs via phone calls
Always be careful when you receive spam email asking for your personal information and stay safe online. For more information on phishing and identity theft, visit NCPC’s Identity Theft campaign website, www.fraud.org, or the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Clearinghouse at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.