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Phishing scams may take many forms, but they usually start with an e-mail, instant message or pop-up window asking you to update your personal information. One of the following often accompanies this request:

  • A threat or warning that failure to update your information will result in the closure of an account or cancellation of a subscription
  • An offer of a prize or some other form of financial compensation
  • A note that you have received pictures or an instant greeting
  • A confirmation of an online purchase

Phishing attempts may masquerade as official notifications from reputable companies, such as your financial institution, your credit card company, or a credit reporting firm. The message will usually encourage you to click on a link that takes you to a “copycat” Web site designed to look identical to a legitimate site. Such copycat sites are also known as “spoofed” sites.

Once at the spoofed site, you may be asked to enter your screen name or username and password, your credit card number and expiration date, your Social Security number, or other personal information. Entering this information can give the phisher access to your account to send spam, steal your identity, make fraudulent purchases, or use your identity in other ways.

If you believe you have given away your billing information: first, notify your financial institution and any other business where you have an account. Then visit the FTC's National Resource for Identity Theft Web site at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/.

Source: American Bankers Association, www.aba.org

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