Phishing is a scam in which you receive a fraudulent e-mail designed to steal your identity or vital personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, debit card PINs, and passwords. A phishing e-mail often asks you to verify this type of information. The e-mail may state that your account has been compromised or that one of your accounts was charged incorrectly, but you must click on a link in the e-mail or reply with your bank account number to confirm your identiy or protect your account.
Legitimate companies never ask for your password or account number via e-mail. The e-mail may even threaten to disable your account, if you don't reply, but don't believe it. If you receive an e-mail there are several actions you should take:
Don't click on any links in the e-mail. They can contain a virus that can harm your computer. Even if links in the e-mail say the name of the company, don't trust them. They may redirect to a fraudulent website.
Don't reply to the e-mail itself. Instead forward the e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe that the e-mail is valid, contact the company using the phone numbers listed on your statements or in the phone book. Tell the customer service representative about the e-mail and ask if your account has been compromised. You can also contact the company online by typing the company's web address directly into the address bar; never use the links to provided in the e-mail.
If you clicked on any links in the phishing e-mail or replied with the requested personal information, contact your bank directly to let them know and ask to have fraud alerts placed on your accounts, have new credit cards issued, or set new passwords.
Similar to phishing, vishing scammers also seek to get you to provide your personal information. However, instead of using e-mail to request the information, vishing scammers use the phone to make their requests. You may be directed to call a phone number to verify an account or to reactivate a debit or credit card. If you have received one of these calls, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If you receive telemarketing calls after your phone number has been in the national registry for 31 days, you can file a complaint using the same website and phone numbers. To file a complaint, provide the date of the telemarketing call, phone number, and name of the company that called you. The Federal Trade Commission advises that it is not necessary to register cell phone numbers on the DNC registry despite e-mail claims circulating on the Internet telling you to do so. You may also file a complaint if you receive a call that used a recorded message instead of a live person, even if your phone number is not on the registry.
If you represent a telemarketing company and would like information on compliance issues, or to subscribe to the Do Not Call Registry, visit the telemarketer website.
You can take several actions to stop the delivery of unwanted mail in your mailbox.
Tell companies you do business with to remove your name from customer lists they rent or sell to other companies. Look for information on how to opt-out of marketing lists on sales materials, order forms, and websites.
Contact the Direct Marketing Association to sign up for their mail preference service. This will allow you to remove your name from most national telemarketing, mail, and e-mail lists. You can register for free online or by sending the registration form and $1 fee through postal mail.
Register with the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry's Opt-Out Program to stop receiving credit card and insurance offers. All major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion) participate in this program. Call 1-888-567-8688 or register online to opt-out of receiving these offers for five years. To opt-out of these offers permanently, you must register online.
Complete and file a PS Form 1500 at your local Post Office to prevent, or stop, receiving sexually oriented advertising in your mail.
If you have previously completed a request to opt-out from receiving firm offers, you must complete a request to opt-in to begin receiving offers again.
Remember, opting-out will not end all mail solicitations. Local merchants, religious and charitable associations, professional and alumni associations, politicians, and companies with which you do business may still send you mail.
Every year, thousands of people lose their money and personal information to telephone scams. Typically, phone scammers will try to sell you something you hadn't planned to buy and will pressure you to give up personal information, like your credit card details or Social Security number.
Common Phone Scams
In telemarketing fraud, phone scammers will often use exaggerated—or even fake—prizes, products, and services as bait. Some may call you, but others will use mail, text, or ads to get you to call them for more details. Types of phone scams include:
Travel packages - "Free" or "low-cost" vacations can end up costing a fortune in hidden costs.
Fake business and investment opportunities - As business and investing can be complicated, scammers take advantage of people not researching the investment.
Charitable causes - Many phone scams involve urgent requests for recent disaster relief efforts.
National Do Not Call List
Avoid phone scams by registering your home and cell phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. This national registry was created to offer consumers a choice regarding telemarketing calls. It won't stop all unsolicited calls—but will help stop most.
Report Telephone Fraud
If you believe you have been a victim of a telephone scam or telemarketing fraud, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).