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Phishing & ID Theft Tips

Updated June 3, 2016 . AmFam Team

Get the know-how and confidence to fend off phishing scammers and identity thieves with these must-read ideas.

Let’s face it, life can be pretty hectic. When you’re working hard, enjoying time with loved ones and pursuing your dreams, it can be hard to find time to stay up to date on increasingly sophisticated identity theft scams.

But we’re here to help. We’ve collected the following info to help you recognize and avoid phishing scams — one of the most common forms of identity theft — so you can keep pursuing your dreams worry-free.

What Is Phishing?

Identity thieves are experts at social engineering — a clever, sneaky way of tricking people into giving out financial or other sensitive information, usually through email, phone, text messages or even in person. Phishing scams are an easy way for identity thieves to try and trick you into giving away personal information, which may lead to even more important info stolen. Here’s a high-level look at phishing and common examples:

Phishing. This scam typically involves emails, text messages or pop-up messages that convincingly look like they’re from trusted sources, such as your bank, college alma mater, insurance company (even American Family!) or your Internet provider. These “phishy” messages often contain links to copycat websites that will fool you into providing valuable personal information, from Social Security and credit card numbers to login IDs and passwords you use for your personal finances. It is imperative to be extra cautious of attachments from these phishing messages, they could damage your computer or steal passwords when you open them.

Spear Phishing. This sneaky form of phishing involves emails that create a false sense of trust by referencing things or people that are personally familiar to you — where you work or live, people you may know, or things you bought online. They might even look like they’re from one of your friends or relatives! Spear phishers typically encourage you to give up personal information, often under the pretext of some urgent need, like getting your help with mortgage payments or transferring funds to your boss.

Vishing. This usually involves phone conversations with real people — con artists who use widely available information about you to manipulate you into giving up personal information. Here’s an example: You just got a friendly call from someone who says she’s from your bank, and she needs your credit card number to help you avoid a late payment. She’s got your personal info — birthday, phone number and even your home address — so she’s probably legitimate, right? Nope!

Caller ID Spoofing. This is a more sophisticated form of the vishing example above, in which the caller ID and phone number are deliberately falsified to look like they’re coming from a trusted source — but they’re not.

Take Smart Steps to Avoid Phishing

Avoiding phishing emails or spoofing can be less worrisome if you’re careful. Here are some savvy and proactive ways you can stay ahead of clever phishers.

Think before you act. Be cautious. Think about whether it’s okay to send financial or other personal information in response to unsolicited requests.

Verify first. Pick up the phone or send an email to contact financial institutions, your insurance agent, companies or other entities that are supposedly requesting your sensitive information.

Type, don’t click. Type out URLs instead of clicking on links in emails that request your information. Suspicious looking links may be scams or lead to websites where phishing attacks can happen more easily.

Use your eagle eye. Watch out for URLs that look like the real deal but are spelled differently or have a different domain (.com, .gov, .org, etc.). Or, click the padlock icon in the website address field to confirm that the name matches the site you think you’re on.

Insure carefully. Consider getting American Family’s identity fraud expense coverage offering high-value, low-cost coverage for expenses related to restoring your identity. Contact your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) for details.

What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

If you suspect you’re the victim of a phishing scam, don’t panic. Here’s how to recover more quickly if the unexpected happens.

Act swiftly. As soon as you can, contact the company that was being misrepresented by the scammer, so it can take steps to help you (and others). Contact your bank or credit card company if you’ve given out credit card or bank account numbers to the wrong people.

If you are insured with us, American Family partners with CyberScout — the industry leaders in identity protection and data defense — to offer credit monitoring services that will alert you if a credit account in your name is opened or updated.

Report it. You can report scams to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center (Opens in a new tab), and you can file Caller ID Spoofing incidents to the FCC (Opens in a new tab).

Update your logins. Change your passwords for online accounts, especially those with sensitive information, and make sure that your new password is unique and strong. This can help prevent identity thieves from stealing more information from you, or stop an attack in progress.

Now that you’ve got the know-how to fend off identity thieves, go out there and pursue your dreams with confidence!

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

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