What you can do about phishing schemes
The Department of Justice recommends following three simple rules when you see emails or Web sites that may be part of a phishing scheme: Stop, Look, and Call.
- Stop. Phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails with one purpose in mind. They want people to react immediately to that false information, by clicking on the link and inputting the requested data before they take time to think through what they are doing. Resist that impulse to click immediately. No matter how upsetting or exciting the statements in the email may be there is always enough time to check out the information more closely.
- Look. Look more closely at the claims made in the email, think about whether those claims make sense, and be highly suspicious if the email asks for numerous items of your personal information such as account numbers, usernames, or passwords. For example:
If the email indicates that it comes from a bank or other financial institution where you have a bank or credit card account, but tells you that you have to enter your account information again, that makes no sense. Legitimate banks and financial institutions already have their customers' account numbers in their records. Even if the email says a customer's account is being terminated, the real bank or financial institution will still have that customer's account number and identifying information.
If the email says that you have won a prize or are entitled to receive some special "deal," but asks for financial or personal data, there is good reason to be highly suspicious. Legitimate companies that want to give you a real prize don't ask you for extensive amounts of personal and financial information before you're entitled to receive it.
- Call. If the email or Web site purports to be from a legitimate company or financial institution, call or email that company directly and ask whether the email or Web site is really from that company. To be sure that you are contacting the real company or institution where you have accounts, credit card accountholders can call the toll-free customer numbers on the backs of your cards, and bank customers can call the telephone numbers on your bank statements.