Understanding online safety terms
“Phishing?, Trojan Horses? What do these terms mean?”
We’re online more and more. So are identity thieves, who are constantly coming up with new scams and schemes to steal our identities. Here are some common ways thieves target your personal information, including your credit card account information.
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Perhaps the most common type of attack we’ve all experienced is receiving unsolicited e-mail in our inbox. It’s more than just a nuisance. Spam is unwelcome and sometimes deceptive e-mail or electronic messaging, typically commercial advertising, that can cost you time and money. Spam can also include things like spyware and viruses, so it’s important not to click on links in unsolicited e-mail.
Phishing is an aggressive e-mail attempt by identity thieves to get your personal information. These e-mails try to get you to visit a fake web site that looks similar to the real company’s web site, and asks you to enter your personal information. Phishing attempts can also trick you into downloading malicious software, or malware.
Smishing, (short for SMS Phishing), is a phishing email scam using fake text messages. Smishing scams try usually try to get the person receiving the text message to visit a website or call a phone number and provide sensitive information such as credit card details or passwords. Smishing websites can also try to infect the person’s computer or smartphone with malware.
Malware is malicious software (including things like viruses, Trojan Horses and worms) that is designed to damage or disrupt your computer or smartphone and/or steal your personal and financial information like your credit card information. Spyware and Adware are types of malware that try to gather information about you, without your knowledge, primarily for advertising purposes. Malware comes from many different sources, often as a ride-along to screensavers, toolbars and games and other things you download from the internet.
Social media scams
It’s easy enough for identity thieves to find out information about you online—your high school mascot, for instance, or your e-mail address. Answering quizzes about yourself, posting your GPS location and travel plan and a habit of oversharing information can put your personal information at risk. Another way you put your identity at risk is by clicking on web post links, downloadable games or videos that contain malware. Even links from posts by friends can unintentionally contain malware—or could be from hackers who’ve taken over a friend’s social media page.
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The Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov) offers a wealth of information on protecting your identity online, current scam alerts and tips to help keep you safe and secure when online.
Remember—if you’re ever concerned that you may have been the victim of identity theft or scams, monitor your credit card transactions closely and consider placing a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. You can also freeze your credit report and prevent hard inquiries or credit approvals without your permission.