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Beware hoax emails

About E-Mail Fraud

What is Phishing?

Phishing (pronounced "fishing") refers to fraudulent communications designed to deceive consumers into divulging personal, financial, or account information, including account user name and password, credit card information, and social security number. E-mail is most commonly used for phishing due to its low cost, greater anonymity for the sender, the ability to reach a large target group instantly, and the potential to solicit an immediate response. However, fraudsters have also used online pop-up windows, direct mail and phone calls.

Phishing e-mails often appear to come from legitimate financial institutions, ebay, Paypal, insurance companies or retailers. Techniques such as a false "from" address, the use of seemingly authentic logos from financial institutions, or Web links and graphics may be used to mislead consumers into believing that they are dealing with a legitimate request for personal information. These fraudulent e-mails often create a false sense of urgency intended to provoke the recipient to take immediate action; for example, phishing e-mails frequently instruct recipients to "validate" or "update" account information or face cancellation.

How to Protect Your Personal Information

Fraudsters often create a sense of urgency to provoke you to take action immediately. There is no need to respond instantly to an e-mail request. First, consider carefully whether the business in question would have sent you the request. If you are in doubt as to whether or not an e-mail is legitimate, do not respond to it. If the questionable e-mail offers a link asking you to provide personal information on a web page, do not click on the link, even if it looks genuine. In any cases of uncertainty, a safe alternative is to contact the company in question directly through familiar communications channels, such as the phone number provided on a billing statement or credit card. You can also log into the secure message center of the company's website. In all likelihood, phishing will continue to evolve into the use of more sophisticated tactics. For this reason, it is important to always think twice before you provide any personal information.