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    Posted April 26, 2007

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Phishing 101

Or, how to play 'hard to get' with your personal data

By James Ludwig
Chair, Equity New Technology Committee

Many of us have seen them; emails from what looks like your financial institution with a story to tell, and a request. "We've had a system failure and your financial data was wiped out. Your action is required immediately. Please click on this link to update your account information and unlock your account." Stop right there. Smell something fishy? Close - the term is "phish-y".

Phishing emails are sent by criminals hoping to get personal information out of people by masquerading as a legitimate institution - they send out the bait and 'phish' for a response. And according to some research, up to 70% of the time, they get one. Cyvaillance, an online risk monitoring firm based in Arlington, VA, reported a 325% increase in phishing attacks on banks between the months of January and February 2007. So in the face of those numbers, what does one do?

There are few hard and fast rules on the internet, but here's one you can count on: NO FINANCIAL INSTITUTION WILL EVER SEND YOU AN EMAIL ASKING FOR YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION. "Any email we might send would only be of a promotional nature," said Steven Sobotta, Director of Marketing for the Actors Federal Credit Union.

What is your best weapon in this fight? Education. Here are some easy rules:


  2. CALL FIRST. If you have any concerns about a message, call your bank or credit union right away and check to see if it's legitimate.

  3. DON'T PANIC. If you've mistakenly responded to an email like this, call your bank or credit union right away. They'll help you secure your accounts.

  4. Additionally, you can file formal complaints about any suspect email with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) at The IFCC is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Knowledge is power. Read your email carefully, and don't be afraid to call your bank. Look for more articles from the New Tech Committee in future issues.

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