There are two types of identity theft that are prevalent online and with the growing popularity of the Internet have become the number means of thieves to steal your identity and/or rip you off. Fake emails are sent to consumers in an attempt to trick them into providing personal information. This is called phishing or spoofing.

Over the past few years, the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) has seen a significant rise in the amount of complaints that include some type of unsolicited e-mail channeling recipients to a fake 'Customer Service' site. This scam is the number one cause for the increase of online identity theft and credit card fraud.

'Phishing', or 'spoofing', fools consumers into thinking that they are receiving an email from a trusted and reliable source like their bank or credit card company. These websites attempt to convince the visitor into providing financial and/or personal info that allows the criminals to commit bank or credit card fraud or some other type of identity theft.

The sender, subject and body of the email will appear very real and convincing. There will usually be a link for you to click on that will take you to the fraudulent website. Mouse over the link before you click on it. You will see in the bottom of your screen what the actual url is. So, if the email says it is from American Express, but the link says anything other than then the email is a fake. This type of link manipulation is called 'link alteration'.

How you can protect yourself?
If you have any suspicions, a good idea would be to contact the supposed sender, in this case American Express, and ask them if the email is legitimate. However, it is very unlikely that any bank, financial institution or credit card company is every going to send you an email requesting you to visit a site to input sensitive information. They will call you instead.

- In the event that you need to update your account info online, utilize the same procedure you have you used in the past. A good idea would also be to open a fresh browser and type in the url of the website you want to go to and navigate to the page where you can adjust your information.

- Report any and all suspicious email to your Internet Service Provider. If you use a free email provider like Yahoo! or Gmail, click on the 'spam' button. That will let your email provider know that the email is spam.

- Sites that spoof or phish will usually have strange, long urls with lots of letters and numbers that make no sense.

- Never input any sensitive info at a website that is not secure. Always look for the website address to start with 'https". The 's' means 'secure'.

In the event that you fall prey to a phishing or spoofing scam, get in touch with you local authorities and submit a complaints with the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center at Also, contact your credit card companies and bank and let them know. Get more info about what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.

Related Reading:
Detecting Identity Theft
Children and Identity Theft
Seniors and Identity Theft



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