Vicki Rolens, Managing Director of the Federation of American Consumers and Travelers (FACT) has come across something “phishy” which may be of interest to our members.

I’m sure many of you have heard the term “phishing”. It is, unfortunately, a part of our brave, new, electronic world. By definition, phishing is an attempt to acquire sensitive information (usernames, passwords, credit card details, etc.) by masquerading as a legitimate, trustworthy entity. Social media websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be a fertile ground for these activities because communication is frequently more casual. On-line banking and e-commerce are relatively safe at this point. However, phishing is an ever-evolving phenomenon; and, those doing it (the “phishermen”) are probably not stupid.

So, how do we protect ourselves? There is probably no completely foolproof way since, as we said, it is an ever-evolving process. However, we do need to be suspicious of emails or other communications (including text messages, social media posts, pop up ads etc.) which request personal, financial information. Don’t click on links in messages which ask for personal or financial information. Instead, if that link appeared to be something in which you might be interested, go directly on line and search for it. Don’t download or open attachments in messages unless you are sure of their source. It is also very important to keep your own security software up to date.

In addition, these “phishermen” do not throw the small ones back. In other words, your children may also be at risk. Be sure to safeguard all of your children’s information so that they are not victims of identity theft. Since we live in an age of computers, the internet and smart phones, we can all be at risk; especially children who, depending upon age or parental discretion, may have access to some or all of those devices. Teach them early to be wary of giving away personal information without checking with you first.

Finally, the plain, old, standard telephone scams are still there. “Hello, I’m happy tell you that you have just won an automobile. Please call back so that we can confirm that we have the correct person”. Of course, when you call back you will have to provide some proof of who you are…Social Security number??

The bottom line in all of this is, never divulge personal, sensitive information to anyone, on line or otherwise, unless you know precisely to whom you are giving it.