One of the most endemic forms of internet fraud comes in the form of what is commonly referred to as ‘phishing’. This is when a would-be (or actual) criminal impersonates a trusted institution, company or organization in an email in an attempt to make you reveal personal information.
Can you think how many “I am the Finance Minister of an African state overrun by guerrillas. Please give me your banking details so I can put a bazillion US Dollars in it for safe keeping” scams you have seen or heard of circulating the net?
But not all of these scams are quite so embarrassingly obvious, with some being highly sophisticated forms of fraud.
Entire bogus websites have been created in the past that replicate perfectly the legitimate websites of certain banking companies, and if you follow the link in the email sent to you by such fraudsters there are often very few clues to indicate that you aren’t at the legitimate website of your online banking account. If you enter your account number and security codes you are then certain to be robbed.
The trick here is to never email you bank account details back to your bank. No bank asks you to email them your passwords or account details. Likewise, do not follow links in emails that seem to be from your bank, instead just type their web-address into your browser and go there yourself to verify whatever claims are being made in the email.
Another form of ‘phishing’ is when you receive emails offering bogus job offers. These are intended to harvest your full name, address, CV, telephone numbers and, if they can get away with it, your banking details.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that as long as you don’t send your banking details you cannot be affected by some sort of scam. A friend of mine once gave her name, postal address, email address and messenger details to what she thought was a potential employer just so that she could receive more information about the ‘job’ being offered. She then received a batch of sealed boxes in the post that her would-be ’employer’ told her was sent by mistake and asking if he could pop around to pick them up.
He did, but it turned out that the goods were by fraud or were illegal in themselves (my friend didn’t find out which). She was arrested a fortnight later and had her laptop computer and her Nokia 6500 Classic mobile phone confiscated for analysis as part of a major investigation into whatever internet crime she was implicated in.
The whole process was very invasive, with all her private computer files, emails and mobile phone messages being analysed by the police, before finally being acquitted without charge.
Another thing to watch out for is posting too much personal information on internet social network sites like MySpace or Facebook. Some criminals spend hours surfing through accounts that do not have strict enough security settings, harvesting information that may be used for various unwholesome deeds.
You have been warned! Now if you haven’t seen a copy of your credit report in 6 months or more, you need to review it immediately. Thre are many ways to get a copy of your 3 credit reports, but these are the best credit report sites that offer free or discounted reports, plus other tools to help know what’s happening with your credit.