Monday, August 30, 2004

Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Identity theft has always been a meddling problem, but in this technological age of computer and Internet, it has become much more devious and as a result, prevalent.

Just in the past couple of weeks, I have received emails from my supposed credit card companies and bank that they are updating their customer records or they lost my customer info and need me to reenter it or I've won a prize being a favored customer and I need to log in to claim it. More times than not, this is someone trying to steal your identity and/or financial information and if you fall for it, you're in trouble.

These emails look like the real deal. They look authentic, professional, company logo at the top, very business like and the requests may sound reasonable. Check the email over and look for a couple of signs that will tell you if you're looking at the real deal or if you've just received it from someone who is about to become the next Mr./Mrs. You.

Look for typos. If you see any, it's fake.

Most of the emails ask you to click on a link included in the email to log in. The link in the email may look authentic and may have your bank's actual domain in it, but it could be taking you somewhere else. You can find out where the link actually takes you by hovering your mouse pointer over the link, without clicking on it, check at the bottom of your browser to see what the actual destination is. If it's an IP (bunch of numbers), it's fake. Don't click it.

Credit card and bank companies will never ask for your password or pins. They don't know this information but it's because they're not supposed to have this information. It's useless to them. That's part of the security of passwords. If the email is asking for your login info, it's fake.

Banks like Citibank keep a list of all the fake emails on their website, copies of the bogus emails people use to try and steal info. Go to their site and look for a section on security to find a list of the more commonly used methods. If you receive a Citibank email you know is fake, forward it to You will get an automatic reply that can tell you if it is a common fake email or if it is a new one. Every one I've forwarded, they already knew about. You will get a reply within minutes telling you if the email was fake or not.

Other banks should have security setup like Citibank's. Just go to their site and look for it. It's your identity that's at stake. It's worth a few minutes of your time to do some research. If you receive a fake email and have no security division to forward it to, at least report it as spam so your email provider knows and can keep it from going to other suckers who might fall for it.

If you remember nothing else, remember this: Just don't trust anything you get in email. If the email requests private information, there is a good chance it's fake. If it is legit, ask for alternate means to provide the info, like telephone.

Good luck. There are some very talented scammers out there.