'Phishing' is a dirty word. Just mention it in mixed company and someone will blush.
I had never even heard of such a word until the last few years and now everywhere you go, 'phishing' is in or shouldn't that be out?
Actually when I scanned the Internet dictionary of objectionable conduct, it ranked third on the list, and this is what it said:
Never respond to emails that request you provide your credit card info via email -- and DON'T EVER RESPOND to emails that ask you to go to a website to verify personal (and credit card) information. These are called 'phishing' scams.
Just a few days ago, someone tried the 'phishing' scam on the Ol' Columnist. It wasn't the first time and, undoubtedly, it won't be the last as this is scam month as it seemingly is every month of the year.
However, January seems to the key month when these &^%$#&((* scammers believe that you and me have our guard down.
The email appeared to be believeable; it had a picture of a credit card with those common words: "What's in your wallet?" And then it began with those introductory words as Dear Valued Customer and then proceeded to tell me that "due to attempts which we have experienced by fraudsters, attempts which is divulging important personal information from customers, this information can be (e.g. credit card details, telephone banking details or Internet banking log on).We have done something better to protect you and your account."
Then came the 'hook."
"As part of our ongoing commitment to provide the 'Best Possible' service and protection to all our customers, we are now requiring each member to validate their account using our new secure and safe SSL servers." Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah!
However, suspicion set in when reading this line: "This email has been sent to all (the credit card company) customers, and it is compulsory to follow as failure to verify account details will lead to account suspension."
And to top it all off, a phone call came, with someone telling me (no, ordering me) to push a certain button because the (credit card) company MUST contact me and that's when I hung up.
When I contacted the REAL "what's in your wallet?" folks via their website, they gave this warning: "Phishing is an Internet scam in the form of an email or pop-up box. The emails and pop-links link to site that look like well-known legitimate businesses and ask you to provide or confirm personal, financial, or password information."
Then the legitimate credit card company stated the scammers used the following methods to get you to reply:
* Threatening to close your account unless you provide personal information immediately;
* Claiming to need updated personal information on your account;
* Offering a service that can only be provided with your personal information.
Then the REAL company provided email addresses to report such criminal activities.
Although exposure of credit card scams have appeared in this newspaper before, repeating them often could save you an avalanche of headaches and pain.
The following are some key Internet Scambusters credit card fraud prevention tips:
* Keep an eye on your credit card every time you use it, and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible;
* Try not to let your credit card out of your sight whenever possible;
* Be very careful to whom you give your credit card;
* Don't give out your account number over the phone unless you initiate the call and you know the company is reputable;
* Never give your credit card info out when you receive a phone call. (For example, if you're told there has been a 'computer problem' and the caller needs you to verify information.) Legitimate companies don't call you to ask for a credit card number over the phone;
* Never provide your credit card information on a website that is not a secure site;
* Sign your credit cards as soon as you receive them;
* Shred all credit card applications you receive;
* Never leave your credit cards or receipts lying around;
* Never lend a credit card to anyone else.
In order to track down these scam artists, the authentic credit-card companies want you to contact them to report such abuses. There's also a reporting website: www.antiphishing.org/index.html, which is committed to wiping out Internet scams and fraud.
Tomorrow: More tips about credit card safety and also other scams you should be aware of in 2007.