National Consumers League

Meet the top ten scams - #4 phishing scams

This is part four of our 10-part series taking a closer look at the top scams of 2012. The number four scam reported to NCL’s Fraud Center in 2012 was phishing scams. To see an overview of our complete report on the top scams of the year, visit our Web site at nclnet.org. Phishing scams clocked in at #4 on NCL’s 2013 Top Ten Scams report. These scams, come in a practically infinite number of variations, but a common theme involves a scammer getting their marks to click on malicious Web links or otherwise divulge sensitive information.

Through the installation of tracking software on a victim’s computer or getting the victim to divulge sensitive information voluntarily scammers are able to get the information they need to commit identity theft or other frauds. Phishing emails often are made to look like they come from a trusted entity, such as a bank or other financial institutions, complete with logos or other graphics that make the emails look legitimate. Warning signs of phishing scams include:

  • Requests to “verify” information (such as a social security number, a bank PIN numbers, credit card account numbers, etc.)
  • E-mails from organizations that contain misspellings and/or poor grammar
  • Calls or e-mails from organizations that threaten to close accounts
  • Links or pop-ups that direct the users to unusual websites (such as .ru, .cn or other overseas web domains)
  • E-mails that do not contain your name

To ensure that more people are not tricked by one of these scams, consumers should take the following precautions:

  • If an unsolicited email or phone call from your financial institution asks for personal information, do not reply. If you are concerned about your account, contact the financial institution directly via the phone number or website listed on your statement
  • Take precautions to keep your computer secure. This includes ensuring that your e-mail provider and/or security provider scans email for threats and scans your computer for viruses regularly.
  • Do not click on links or open attachments in emails from people you do not know
  • If you are concerned that you’ve been a victim of a phishing scam, contact your financial institutions (banks, credit cards companies, etc.) and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account. You should also contact the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to alert them to the possibility of unauthorized individuals attempting to take out loans in your name.

For more information on phishing, please visit http://www.phishinginfo.org/