We have been using passwords and codes for hundreds of years, but still, it seems like our security thinking hasn’t evolved at all.

Most identity theft attempts are made by fraudsters disguising themselves as a trustworthy person. With just a little bit of common sense and caution, you can make sure that you don’t become a victim of identity theft.

PHISHING is an email in which you are urged to provide personal information of any kind by clicking on a fake link. The fake link will take you to a company website that looks genuine but is not.

Watch out for emails that:

  • Ask you to leave your card or bank account number.
  • Ask you to provide your password.
  • Asking you to click on unknown links
  • Asking you to verify your account information
  • Threatening to close your account immediately if you don’t take action
  • Tempts you with unlikely offers
  • Contains poor grammar, spelling or words in the wrong order
  • Contains strange headlines or a non-personal address in the email

How to avoid:

  • Never click on links in emails from people you don’t know
  • Never give out your personal information or click on links that read “click here to confirm your information.”

Remember: serious companies never ask for personal information by sending an email.

SMISHING is when someone tries to trick you into giving them your private information via a social messenger app or SMS message. It mimics a regular text message and may even be sent from someone you trust. When that happens, their accounts may have been hacked.

The information a smisher is looking for can be anything from online passwords to your social security number, your bank account information, or credit card information.

How to avoid:

  • Don’t reply to text messages from people you don’t know.
  • Don’t reply to a number that looks odd
  • NEVER give out your bank account number, online passwords or credit card information to an unknown caller — even if they say that they are calling from a company that you know of.
  • Don’t click on links in a text message unless you know the person it’s coming from.

VISHING (also called scam calls) is when someone is calling you to your home phone number, to your smartphone or via online services like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom. Once again, the aim is to get credit card details, birthdates, account sign-ins, or sometimes to harvest phone numbers from your contact lists.

In a vishing attempt, the caller pretends to be from the government, a reputable company or organization, a personal banker, and many other things.

How to avoid (the advice is almost always to hang up the phone):

  • Don’t answer your phone when you receive phone calls from unknown numbers.
  • Never call phone numbers that are provided in emails or text messages
  • Never give any information to a caller unless you’re sure of who they are. Hang up.
  • Hang up the phone if you are not sure why the person is calling
  • Beware if someone is calling you to sell or promote something. Hang up.
  • Beware of telemarketers. Hang up.