Be Safe With Your Credit Card
By Ed Vegliante
“You never can be too sure,” at least that’s what my anti-Internet Shopping friends tell me. Maybe they are right, but the Internet is too convenient and powerful to not take advantage of. So, as long as you are online, you ought to keep a few things in mind – after all they could be correct.
Phishing Scams – What to Watch For
The biggest credit fraud problem on the Internet today doesn’t have to do with consumer purchases, it has to do with a phenomenon known as “phishing.” Phishing is a criminal activity in which scamsters attempt to acquire personal or credit card information. Although phishing originated in the 1990s as a way to gain illegal access to America OnLine, it has progressed into one of the fastest and most adaptive credit card crimes in America.
The latest incarnations have attempted to target online shoppers and bank patrons, as well as social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook. Typically, a user will receive a “spoofed” email, a clever production made to imitate a bank, merchant or credit card company. The email will contain general information, and typically requests some sort of verification of account information, or request for personal data. Phishers have even gone so far as to imitate the IRS and capture sensitive tax data. Instant messenger and the telephone have been used to a lesser extent.
Some common tactics that Phishers use are mimicking URLs to banks or credit providers that you use. For example, a website could be set up that asks you to verify your account number and billing address. It could appear to be related to your bank, and show a web address of something like: www.creditCardCompany.fakePage.com. Unwitting users may end up simply forking over extremely account data that could, and probably will be used for identity theft. So, be weary of online solicitations of account information. Most, if not 100% of banks and credit card providers have a strict policy to never solicit personal account information online.
How to Respond to Phishing
The Federal Trade Commission began prosecuting phishing crimes in 2004, with mixed success. If you become a victim of phishing you should contact them, your local police, or the FBI immediately. Also, it goes without saying that you should close any account that may be tampered with, and contact your credit providers immediately. Finally, make sure to contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to have a fraud alert posted on your credit report.
In 2005 Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Anti-Phishing Act of 2005. It is a bill that doles out severe criminal penalties to anybody convicted of creating fraudulent emails or websites in order to illegally gain information or financial reward. Phishing is now a federal crime, and the Secret Service and FBI are more aggressively pursuing it.
For more information on phishing and Internet fraud, visit www.ftc.gov.
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Ed Vegliante runs www.Credit-Card-Surplus.com, a credit card directory enabling the consumer to compare and apply for credit cards.