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Chase, BofA issue identity theft alerts

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Phishing is a form of fraud used by online scammers to gain access to credit card information.  While many banks have been victims of phishing, online fraudsters have most recently used the technique to target Chase and Bank of America credit card and bank account customers.  In the past, criminals have also posed as well-known sites such as PayPal and eBay.  If you aren't careful, you might just get reeled in.  

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In phishing, a thief contacts the consumer via a fraudulent e-mail or phone call that appears to be from a legitimate bank or business, and requests sensitive information about bank accounts or credit cards.   Although you are targeted, you may not even be a customer of these businesses, which in the most recent scams appear to be Chase or Bank of America.  The e-mail or phone call, which may seem entirely official, explains that there has been a possible security breach and that your account may have been affected.  Then you are asked to provide account and other sensitive information to supposedly make sure your funds remain unaffected. 

If you supply the requested information, your credit card account could be in jeopardy.  Online criminals can make purchases on your credit card or withdraw funds from your checking account using your debit card information.

So how does a concerned consumer make sure his or her credit card remains safe from online thieves, including those employing phishing?  The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to never provide your credit card information to anyone unless you can verify that they are actually working for a financial institution. That means not providing information online or over the phone to anyone who is not an employee of your bank or card issuer.  Generally, it is best not to supply personal account information to anyone who has called you purporting to be with your bank.  If information needs to be supplied over the phone it is best to call the number on the back of your credit card or on your banking statement to ensure the information stays secure.  

To avoid becoming the victim of other forms of identity theft, you can buy a cross-cut shredder (thieves have been known to reassemble documents that have been passed through regular shredders) and use it to destroy credit card statements and other paperwork.  Simply throwing away such information could provide resourceful criminals the information needed to access your credit card or checking accounts.

Additionally, make sure your online card transactions occur over secured websites.  Secured sites often display a lock icon and an "https" heading in the Internet address. Such websites protect your data by encrypting it.  By only providing your credit card information over secured sites, it cuts the chance that a dubious third party could snatch your information while it is in transit.

With numerous merchants accepting online payments and many credit cards offering the convenience of online account access, cardholders should not be afraid to use the Internet.  Rather, they should be educated and cautious.  Those attributes go a long way toward preventing you from becoming a victim of phishing or other scams.

Published: July 4, 2006


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