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Consumer division addresses phishing, identity theft scams


One in six consumers fall victim to identity theft crimes.

Unfortunately, the telephone and widespread Internet access have created an effective tool for the fraudsters, pointed out the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

The criminals, phishers, frequently trick people into providing personal and financial information by pretending to be from a legitimate company, government agency or organization, continued the division of consumer protection.

The most common form of phishing involves e-mail messages. The sender asks targeted consumers to confirm personal information for falsified, but plausible reasons.

Typically, the e-mail contains a link to a phony website with sophisticated graphics and images.

In one popular phisher tactic, e-mail senders claim they are from the fraud departments of reputable companies, points out the consumer protection division.

Indicating that the company is conducting an investigation into an identity theft case involving the consumer, the message asks consumers to verify personal and financial information.

Legitimate credit card issuers and companies may contact customers when unusual patterns of activity appear, noted the division of consumer protection.

However, legitimate credit card issuers and companies generally ask customers if they made the transactions in question without requesting account numbers or personal information from the potential identity theft victims, stressed the state consumer protection agency.

To avoid becoming a victim of phishing and identity theft crimes, the consumer protection division encourages Carbon County residents to:

•Never click on links within e-mails requesting personal information.

Fraudsters use the links to lure people to phony addresses that look like the websites of the company, organization or agency the phishers are impersonating.

To determine whether an e-mail message is legitimate, people should contact the company or agency in question directly by directly by telephone or use a search engine to locate and then visit the addresses of the official websites.

•Beware of pharming.

In the latest version of online identity theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in a computer and hijacks the individual's Web browser, pointed out the state consumer protection division.

When the consumer types in the address of a legitimate website, the virus or malicious program tranfers the Internet visitor to a fake copy of the site.

Personal information like account numbers provided at phony websites or during fraudulent telephone conservations can be stolen and fraudulently used by identity thieves, cautioned the state division of consumer protection.

•Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen.

Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company's, organization's, or agency's Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don't ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software to help prevent this type of phishing attack.

•Protect computers with updated spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall.

A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing e-mails people receive.

Anti-virus software scans incoming messages for troublesome files.

Anti-spyware software looks for programs that have been installed on a computer and tracks online activities.

The software programs protect Internet users against pharming and phishing techniques.

Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering computers. Protection is especially important for individuals with broadband connections because computers are open to the Internet when on switches are activated.

People should look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems, noted the consumer protection division.

For recommendations on securing computers residents may visit www.onguardonline.gov and www.staysafeonline.org.

•Open only expected e-mail attachments.

Even if messages appear to be from familiar sources, e-mails could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal personal information.

Carbon County residents should report suspected phishing incidents to involved companies or agencies, emphasized the division of consumer protection.

Local consumers may also report related problems to law enforcement agencies through the National Fraud Information Center/Internet Fraud Watch at www.fraud.org.

The national fraud information center's toll-free telephone number is 1-800-876-7060.

For additional advice and information about how to place a fraud alert on files at credit reporting bureaus, Carbon County residents may contact the Federal Trade Commission's clearinghouse at www.consumer.gov/idtheft .

The FTC clearinghouse's telephone number is 1-877-438-4338.






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