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How to Recognize Email Identity Theft Scams
Identity thieves can open credit card accounts in your name.
Every day you probably find dozens of spam emails clogging your inbox. Among them you may see warnings that you must contact your bank to prevent your account from being frozen or that you must download information to double check a purchase you don’t remember making. These are common examples of email identity theft
scams. You must learn to recognize them in order to keep your personal information safe from thieves.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging
Evaluate whether the subject line or the email
is aimed at scaring you into immediate action. This is known as social engineering. Identity thieves will send an email designed to frighten you enough to take immediate action, such as inputting your bank or credit card information, without thinking more closely about whether the message is actually legitimate.
Read the email closely to see if it ever refers to you by name. Most identity theft scams use emails that refer to the recipient in generic terms. The emails claim to be from your bank, credit card company or another legitimate sender, but they refer to you generically as “Dear Customer,” “Dear Accountholder” or some other general title.
Check the email address of the sender. Although return addresses can be spoofed, many scammers who send identity theft emails don’t even bother to disguise their return address. They may claim to be writing to you from afinancial
institution, government agency or auction site, but their address will be from Yahoo!, Hotmail or another free email provider.
Move your mouse over any links in the email to see where they would actually send you. Do not click the links because you could be taken to a site that will download viruses or malicious software. When you move your mouse over the link, the target will appear at the bottom of your browser window. Often the link will have text that seems to indicate it belongs to a bank or other legitimate site, but it will actually take you to an entirely different web page.
Skim the email to see what information it asks you to provide. Identity theft scammers send emails to collect such information as names, Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and anything else that can be used to steal your identity, drain your accounts and run up bills in your name. Any email that asks for personal information is suspicious.
Note whether there are any attachments that arrived with the email. Many identity theft emails don’t even blatantly ask for information or try to trick you into visiting phishing websites. They attempt to trick you into downloading a virus that will steal information right from your computer