The drastic rise in phishing (online account theft) over the last year is an unfortunate reminder that it’s all too easy for thieves to steal your identity on the Internet – gaining access to your bank, email and other personal accounts.

Unfortunately, hackers have become extremely clever at creating fake Websites that look just like real sites, but record and steal your username and password once you enter them.

Online thieves are heavily targeting social networking sites as well, creating unpleasant messes for anyone whose account they hack into. Access to those accounts allows hackers to send a flurry of annoying spam advertisements – some of which could be vulgar – to your friends, family and coworkers.

There are some simple steps though that you can take to protect yourself.

  1. Always type the URL of a Website containing personal information into your browser bar directly.
  2. Never respond to emailed requests for your account usernames, passwords, and credit card, bank account or social security number.
  3. Ensure your Internet browser is kept up to date with the latest security patches.
  4. Regularly log into your Internet accounts to make sure no suspicious activity has taken place.
  5. Use technology to protect yourself. There are several free programs from highly respected companies that will warn you before you visit a potentially dangerous Website.

     6. Ignore emails that sound too good to be true. If you ever happen to win the lottery, no one is going to tell you you’re won via email. Never respond to suspicious emails.

     7. Know that most banks (especially banks you don’t have an account with) will never send emails asking you to login to your account. If you get an email that looks like it’s from your bank and you want  to review your account, don’t click any link in the email body. See step number one.

Try to remember that you have another valuable weapon on your side – the ability to fight back. The more often people take action when they see suspicious emails, the greater the chances a potentially devastating mass hacking event can be prevented. Forward the entire body and header of suspicious emails to:

  • The Federal Trade Commission at
  • The company being targeted (i.e. a bank, or email service provider)
  • The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center at

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