You probably receive dozens of
spam e-mails a day. Among them you see warnings that say you must contact your
bank to prevent your account from being frozen, or that you must download
information to double-check a purchase you don’t remember making.
These are common examples of
e-mail identity theft scams. Consumers must learn to recognize them in order to
keep their personal information safe. Here’s how:
whether the subject line or the e-mail is aimed at scaring you into
immediate action. Identity thieves do this so that you act without
thinking, revealing information you wouldn’t normally give away.
the e-mail to see if it refers to you by name. Most scams refer to the
recipient in generic terms, like “Dear Customer,” or “Dear Account Holder.”
the e-mail address of the sender. Many scammers don’t bother to disguise
their return address, even though they claim to be representing your bank
or a government agency.
your mouse over any links in the e-mail to see where they would actually
send you, but don’t click. The link won’t correspond with the bank URL if
it’s not legitimate.
the e-mail to see what information is being requested. Scammers are
usually looking for names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, bank
account numbers and credit card numbers.
whether there are any attachments within the e-mail. If so, it’s likely a
phishing attempt, aimed at getting you to submit your personal information
or downloading a virus that can steal information from your computer without
you even knowing it.
The key to protecting yourself from identity theft is to
always move slowly and carefully analyze the source, as well as the information
or request itself. The safest bet is when in doubt, don’t.