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Online & Aware

Online and Aware: Protect Yourself from E-Mail Scams:

E-mail and the Internet have become part of our daily lives. The convenience of shopping, banking, paying bills, and communicating electronically has saved us time and hassle. Unfortunately, it has also opened a door for new and continually developing criminal activity. With the increase in on-line personal business transactions has come an increase in identity theft and other types of consumer fraud.

Phishing

Many consumers are tricked into divulging their personal information by thieves posing as legitimate companies or government agencies. This new brand of criminal sends emails that appear to be from the victim's financial institution, or other trusted source. The emails stress the urgency of providing personal information such as credit card numbers, checking account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, and other sensitive personal information, and link to fraudulent websites for collecting the information. Because the technology they use is so sophisticated, many consumers have no idea they've been victimized until it's too late. The thieves then create entirely new identities using the victim's personal information- leaving the consumer to pay the price.

Other Email Scams

Phishing isn't the only email scam. There are lots of disreputable people preying on consumers in many inventive ways. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the most common scam offers likely to arrive by email are:

  • Chain letters - Not only are chain letters annoying, if they involve money or valuable items and promise big returns, they are illegal.
  • Work-At-Home Schemes - Work-at-home schemes have cost consumers thousands of dollars. Many don't deliver on their promises or disclose all of the required up-front costs involved with the new "opportunity".
  • Weight Loss - Programs or products that promote easy or effortless long-term weight loss - at a price - rarely work and can cause you harm in the process.
  • Credit Repair - There is no legal way to remove accurate and timely information from your credit report. Making consistent payments over time is the best way to improve your credit report.
  • Advance Fee Loans - Be wary of promises to provide a loan for a fee, regardless of your past credit history. Legitimate financial institutions don't issue credit cards without first checking your credit.
  • Adult Entertainment - Adult entertainment sites that claim to offer content for free may disconnect your Internet connection and reconnect to an international long distance phone number, at exorbitant rates. Be skeptical when you see opportunities to view "free" content on the web.
Resources
Credit Reporting Bureaus
  • Equifax to order a credit report call: (800) 685-1111
    To report fraud call: (888) 766-0008
    Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc, P.O. Box 105069 , Atlanta , GA 30374
    www.equifax.com
  • Experian to order a credit report call: (888) 524-3606
    To report fraud call: (888) 397-3742
    Experian, P.O. Box 2104 , Allen , TX 75013-2104
    www.experian.com
  • TransUnion to order a credit report call: (800) 888-4213
    To report fraud call: (800) 680-7289
    TransUnion LLC, Consumer Disclosure Center , P.O. Box 1000 , Chester , PA 19022
    http://www.transunion.com/
Government Agencies
  • U.S. Federal Trade Commission
    The FTC oversees the operation of credit bureaus and maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Consumer Response Center:

    (877) 382-4357, or online at www.ftc.gov
    ID Theft hotline: (877) 438-4338.

  • US Social Security Administration - report fraud by calling (800) 269-0271

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