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Guard Your Credit Card: Don't Fall for Internet Phishing Scams

by Barbara Marquand

An e-mail that says it's from your credit card issuer offers some unsettling news. In its recent review of accounts, the company could not verify your information. You must visit a Web link given in the e-mail to verify your account details, or your account will be frozen for 30 days as a security precaution.

The message is professional looking, provides an official-looking Web link, and even includes your credit card company's logo.

Protect Your Credit Cards

But don't be fooled. You have been a target of phishing, a fast-growing Internet crime that tries to trick consumers into giving out their credit cardinformation. More than 5 million U.S. consumers lost money in phishing schemes in the one year ending in September 2008, a 40 percent increase over the number of victims in the previous 12 months, according to Gartner Inc.

Credit and debit card fraud, of which phishing is a growing part, was the third most frequently reported Internet scam last year, making up 9 percent of all Internet fraud complaints, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Phony Credit Card E-mails

So how can you tell a phishing e-mail from a legitimate message from one of your credit card companies? Here are four clues from PhishTank, a collaborative clearinghouse for information and data about phishing on the Internet:

• Impersonal Greeting

Because scammers send phishing e-mails in huge batches, they don't have time to type out names on each e-mail, so the message greets you as a generic customer, rather than by name.

• Bogus Credit Card Company Link

Don't click on the link, even if you recognize the company's name somewhere in it. Go to the credit card issuer's real Web site or call the company. Keep in mind that secure Web sites begin with "https," and the "s" stands for secure.

• Credit Card Account Information Requested

Real credit card companies never ask for account number, PIN numbers, or other personal information by e-mail.

• Hurry Up

Be suspicious about messages that urge you to act quickly. Crooks want you to act fast, so you don't have time to think.

Don't risk replying if you are not sure whether an e-mail is legitimate--contact your credit card company directly to inquire.


Published 01/24/11

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