What Does This Article Cover?
There's probably one sitting in your e-mail inbox right now. What is it? A "phishing" message sent by an internet scammer who hopes to deceive you into providing your credit card number, bank account PIN, social security number, or other sensitive personal information. The scammer will then use the information for a variety of criminal purposes, including perhaps withdrawing money from your bank account and possibly even stealing your identity.
What is "Phishing?"
Phishing is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country with the number of "attacks" rising steadily each month. The term "phishing" comes from the analogy that Internet scammers are using e-mail lures to "fish" for passwords and other personal information from the vast sea of internet users.
Phishers send an e-mail or popup message that claims to be from a business or organization you deal with, for example your bank. When you click on the link, you are sent to a phony Web page that imitates, sometimes quite exactly, the look of the legitimate business. The scammer usually tries to create a sense of urgency by including upsetting or exciting statements in the message. For example, it may state your account will be frozen unless you act now or update or validate your account information by clicking on the link provided. The link takes you to a Web site that appears to be a legitimate site — but isn't. Its only purpose is to trick you into providing personal information so the cyber criminals can steal your identity and run up bills, remove money from your account, or commit crimes in your name.
New York Life Never Uses e-mail to Ask for Personal Information
New York Life wants its customers to know it makes every effort to safeguard their personal information. As far as we know, Internet scammers have not targeted New York Life and its clients. If you are a New York Life customer, please note the company will never use e-mail to ask you to provide your PIN number or other personal information. Whenever you do supply personal information, such as your name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address, on either newyorklife.com or the Virtual Service Center, it is kept secure. If you receive an e-mail from New York Life you believe to be questionable, please don't open it and forward it to email@example.com.
Unsuspecting People Respond
The practice is so widespread that The Gartner Group reported that in the last year 57 million US adults received phishing e-mails. And, unfortunately, unsuspecting people are responding. According to Gartner, 11 million clicked on the provided link and 1.78 million provided passwords and other sensitive personal information. Over half those who provided information experienced identity theft. Total fraud losses amounted to $2.4 billion.
Another study, conducted by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy research and watchdog organization, and based on 1,335 Internet users, found that 76% of respondents experienced an increase in deceptive e-mail practices. More alarming, 70% report they have unintentionally visited a phony Web site and more than 15% admit providing sensitive revealing personal information.
A study published in May 2005 by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) (www.antiphishing.org ) found that by creating identical sites, phishers are able to convince up to 5 percent of recipients to respond with personal information. Since APWG began tracking them in November 2003, phishing attacks have an average monthly growth rate of 50% through July 2004. And, according to APWG, the average phish site remains active for only 5 and a half days, making it difficult for law enforcement to contain the problem.
The proliferation of phishing represents a problem for companies as well as consumers. A phishing scam can weaken a company's credibility and make customers wary of conducting business over the Internet.
Avoid the Phishing Net
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says if you receive an e-mail or popup message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via e-mail. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization in the e-mail using a telephone number you know to be genuine. When submitting credit card information or other sensitive information, always ensure you are using a secure site. To be sure you are on a secure Web server, check the beginning of the web address in your browser's address bar; it should read "https:// "rather than just "http://". Forward the e-mail without opening it to firstname.lastname@example.org or to the FTC at email@example.com.
One good piece of advice from APWG: Regularly log into your online accounts— check them all at least once a month. New York Life customers can access their policies and accounts at: https://www.newyorklife.com/vsc.
What To Do If You Get Caught
If you have already given out your credit card or ATM card information, APWG suggests you report this information to the card issuer as quickly as possible. Many companies have 24-hour toll-free service to deal with such emergencies. Cancel your account and open a new one. If you have given out your bank account information, report this theft to the bank as quickly as possible and cancel your account and open a new one.
If you have given out our personal identification information, such as your Social Security number or other identifying information, report the theft to the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian , Equifax and, Trans Union Corporation , and do the following:
- Request they place a fraud alert and a victim's statement in your file. Also request a FREE copy of your credit report to see if any accounts were opened without your consent.
- Request that the agencies remove inquiries and/or fraudulent accounts stemming for the theft. For a full description of all the steps you should take visit www.antiphising.org.
- If you have any questions about the security of your New York Life accounts, please contact your New York Life agent or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This material is being provided for informational purposes only. Neither New York Life nor its agents provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Please contact your own advisors for legal, tax and accounting advice.
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