In spite of increased awareness about online scams and concerns about cyber security, phishing scams are still a modern problem. Across the world, approximately 80,000 people fall for a phishing scam every day, whether it’s through a website, email, social media, or other outlets. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the different ways someone can steal your identity, how to tell if your information has been compromised, and how to take preventative measures to protect your information.
Identity theft refers to when personal information is stolen and used for malicious purposes, such as damaging finances, credit, and reputation. This can happen through stealing physical items, like a credit card or wallet, or by convincing you to share sensitive information online under false pretenses (these are known as phishing scams).
According to the FDIC, the most common phishing scams appear as an email “from a bank, a retail store or government agency.” The email might offer some sort of deal or discount, or threaten a change to your account if you do not reply with sensitive information. These messages try to convince people that unless they reply with bank account information, social security numbers, and so on, that something bad or something good will happen. As people become more wary of these attempts to steal their identity, potential thieves try to become sneakier and more convincing in their scams.
Spotting A Phishing Scam
Fortunately, there are several warning signs of identity theft that can tip you off before too much damage is done.
- Do you know what they are talking about? Since thieves will use all of your information, including contact information, you may receive phone calls or mail from debt collectors regarding a debt that is not yours. You also might receive mail regarding accounts that you don’t remember opening (these accounts may also be opened under the name/s of your minor children, if you have any).
- Do you have suspicious activity in your account(s)? Thoroughly checking your statements on at least a monthly basis is a simple and effective way to monitor your accounts. You can also set up alerts when certain events happen (emails or text messages); talk to us if you want these set up for your Oak Bank accounts.
- Does everything match up? A lot of times, scammers will put the bank logo in the header but have the email send from, say, firstname.lastname@example.org or some email address that doesn’t ‘match up’. They may sign their name in the footer and a quick Google search can reveal that that person does not work for your bank.
Preventing A Phishing Scam
There are a great deal of preventative measures that you can take to stop identity theft before it starts.
- No matter what, never share sensitive information over email. Oak Bank, and all other financial institutions, will never ask you for this information via email. The FDIC offers the following reminder:
“Remember that no financial institution will email you and ask you to put sensitive information such as account numbers and PINs in your response. In fact, most institutions publicize that they will never ask for customer personal information over the phone or in an email because they already have it.”
If you ever have a question about correspondence you receive from us, we encourage you to contact us.
2) Shred all documents that contain important information.
3) Follow up on any account activity that appears suspicious.
4) If anyone, individual or institution, asks for your SSN, don’t hesitate to ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and what measures they will take to protect it.
If you or someone you know is a victim of identity theft, this website is a great resource for getting started. The FTC also recommends contacting any companies where fraud has occurred, place a fraud alert on your credit reports, report identity theft to the FTC, and, if necessary, contact the local police station.