July 18th, 2013

What is Phishing and How Can You Avoid It?

Phishing, one of the most popular scamming techniques, takes place when people pretend to be from well-known companies, organizations, or government agencies and trick you into giving them personal information, such as your Social Security number or financial account information.

This video illustrates several different scenarios phishing scammers use to obtain your information:

How to recognize phishing scams

One of the best ways to avoid phishing scams is being able to recognize them. Here are a few common characteristics of phishing that can help you:

  • Phishing scammers often try to scare their victims into action. If someone contacts you saying that your account has been overdrawn, a virus has been installed on your computer, or any other bad situation that they say can be solved if you give them your passwords or other information, you should be suspicious of their intentions.
  • Phishing scammers can fake their Caller ID, so if something doesn’t feel right, don’t let the name on the screen sway you to believe that the caller is in fact from the company that he or she claims to be from.
  • Know what phishing emails look like. They often include misspelled words and grammatical errors, or they may be from a company you are not a customer of. View common examples of phishing emails here.
  • Your financial institution will never call or email you to ask you for personal information, such as your social security number or account number.

What to do if you think you’re being scammed

If you doubt the identity of the person claiming to be from your financial institution, insurance provider, doctor’s office, or other company, hang up or ignore the email. Look up the company’s phone number independently on your bills, statements, the phone book, or online. This way you can contact a real employee of the company and explain the situation. They should be able to tell you if the communications you received were legitimate or not.

When it comes to email, always think before you click. Downloading attachments or clicking links in emails can lead to spyware being installed on your computer or mobile device.

If you believe you have become the victim of phishing, act quickly. Contact your financial institution if you believe you gave your account information to a scammer. Information about what to do in the event of identity theft can be found here.

If you’re ever worried about a potential phishing scam regarding SMCU, please call our Contact Center immediately at (206) 398-5500. Remember that SMCU will never request your personal or account information via email.

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