What is an Ebay scam?

The tremendous popularity of eBay, the Internet auction website has made it a frequent target of scammers.  One of the more common scams that keeps occurring involves the receipt by the victim of an email purporting to be from PayPal informing you that there has been a computer problem and that you need to log on to your account to confirm your personal information in order to keep your eBay account operational.  The link provided in the email to connect you to PayPal’s website is an excellent example of phishing because although the website to which you go to if you click on the link looks like eBay, it is a phony website that exists merely to harvest your personal information if you provide it to the scammer.

TIP

If you ever get such an email and you are tempted to respond, merely contact eBay independently rather than by clicking on the address provided in the email.

What is Malware?

Malware is the term for malicious software that you unwittingly download on your computer when you click on links in emails from scammers or fall prey to phishing and download the program from a phony website to which you were lured in the belief that it was a legitimate website.

One of the most common and dangerous types of malware is the keystroke logging program which is often referred to as a Trojan horse.  Once this malware is installed on your computer, the scammer is able to access all of the information on your computer and can provide the scammer with access to your bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts or any other information that is contained on your computer.

TIP

Never click on links unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate.  Also make sure you have an operating firewall on your computer and your computer security software is up to date.

What is Smishing?

Smishing is similar to phishing on your computer, but this time the scammers message comes as a text message on your cell phone.  Often it comes purportedly from your bank telling you that your account has been frozen and then asks you to provide personal information or your account will be frozen.  Smishing is also used by scammers, particularly during the holidays to appear to provide free coupons or free coupons.

TIP

Never respond to a smishing message.  By so doing you only succeed in telling the scammer that you are out there.  Never provide personal information in response to a text message from anyone.  If you believe the message may be legitimate, contact the entity at a telephone number or website that you know is accurate.  Don’t download coupons from emails or text messages.  Again, if you think it may be legitimate, go to the website of the company that you know is legitimate and download the coupons there.

What is Vishing?

Vishing is a scam that takes advantage of Voice over Internet Protocol technology that permits you to make telephone calls through your computer instead of through a regular phone line.  When you use your computer to make a telephone call, your voice is converted into a digital signal that is transmitted over the Internet and then is converted to a regular telephone signal when it reaches the regular telephone you are calling.

Vishing occurs when a recorded phone message is sent by computers using Voice over Internet Protocol technology.  Often the message appears to be from your bank or credit card company informing you that the security of your account has been compromised and that you must provide confirming personal information to keep your account active.

TIP

You will never receive a prerecorded message concerning the security of your account.  If you have any questions about your account’s security, call your bank or credit card company directly at a telephone number you know to be accurate.

What is Phishing?

Phishing occurs when an identity thief lures you through a phony email that purports to be from a bank, another legitimate company or even the IRS or other governmental agency to a phony website that looks like the website of that legitimate company, but actually is just a con to entice you into providing personal financial information.    Often phishing scams prey upon our fears by telling us that our accounts have been compromised and that if we do not provide verifying information, our accounts will be closed.

Clicking through to the phony websites also carries the risk of unwittingly downloading malware such as keystroke logging programs that once installed on your computer provide the scammer with all of the information found about you on your computer. This information can be used to make you a victim of identity theft or even to empty your bank accounts if you use your computer for online banking.

TIP

Never click on a link to a website unless you are totally sure that it is legitimate.  Trust me you can’t trust anyone.  Even if you receive an email from someone you trust, it may not be from them at all, but rather from someone who has hijacked their email or even if it is from them, they may have, in turn, fallen prey to a scam artist and may be passing along dangerous malware without even knowing it.

Install antiphishing software on your computer to warn you before going to a website that may be tainted.  A good, free antiphishing software can be found at www.toolbar.netcraft.com.

What is Medical Identity theft?

Medical identity theft occurs when your medical insurance information becomes compromised.  The effects can be tremendously harmful.  In addition to the usual damage to your credit for unpaid bills, your medical records may become tainted with the faulty medical information of the identity stealing patient.  Your own health care can be jeopardized by receiving improper treatment based upon the medical information of the identity thief that appears on your record.  And as difficult as credit reports are to correct following an identity theft, correcting medical records can be next to impossible due to medical privacy laws.

TIP

Always review your medical insurance bills carefully to uncover any evidence of medical identity theft as quickly as possible.  Ask your physicians what there policy is for data protection as much of medical identity theft has been as the result of an inside job.

What is a Credit Score / Credit Report?

Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your financial life.  The information in your credit report as maintained by the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian is used to calculate your credit score.  This is used by financial institutions to evaluate your credit worthiness and can affect your ability to get a credit card, mortgage loan or a car loan.  It also can affect the rate that you will be charged on such loans.  Your credit score is also used in many states by companies in making employment hiring decisions.  When you are the victim of identity theft, the effect on your credit score can be devastating.  It is a complicated, frustrating and time consuming task to correct your credit report after you have been the victim of identity theft.

TIP

Make sure that your credit report and your credit score are accurate.  Get a free copy from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once a year by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.