How to Spot: E-mail Scams
E-mail Scams: Phishing
All Internet users should be aware of the online scam known as "phishing" (pronounced "fishing"). Phishing involves the use of e-mail messages that appear to come from your bank or another trusted business such as Accurint, but are actually from imposters.
Phishing e-mails typically ask you to click a link to visit a Web site, where you are asked to enter or confirm personal financial information such as your account numbers, passwords, Social Security number or other data. Although these Web sites may appear legitimate, they are not. Thieves can collect whatever data you enter and use it to access your personal accounts.
Other sites appear non-functional or temporarily out of service, this may be deceiving and in reality, the site may be downloading a virus and/or other ill-intended software to your computer.
How can I spot a phishing scam?
Look for these warning signs:
Language and tone. The message you receive may urge you to act quickly by suggesting that your account is threatened or will expire soon. It may say that if you fail to update, verify or confirm your personal or account information, access to your accounts will be suspended. The wording may also be sloppy and contain misspellings and or grammatical errors.
Requests for personal information. Scam e-mails typically ask for personal or account information such as:
- Account numbers and passwords
- Credit and check card numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Online banking user IDs and passwords
- Mother's maiden name
- Date of birth
- Other confidential information
E-mailed instructions to download software. All your online Accurint business web access should be done through our secure Web site, and we will not send you e-mail instructions to download any software to your computer. Do not install software downloads directly from e-mail messages, or from companies or Web sites you do not recognize. When in doubt, contact the company directly.
- Non-secure Web pages. Clever thieves can build a fake Web site that looks nearly identical to an authentic one. They can even alter the URL (the Web address) that appears in your browser window address field on the top. Watch out for non-secure Web pages that ask for sensitive information (secure sites will typically display a lock in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window).
How can I decrease my risk of being a phishing victim?
Here are some safety tips:
- Be suspicious of demanding messages. Messages threatening to terminate or suspend your account without your quick response should be treated as suspicious. A legitimate business should not request personal information from you over an unsecured Web site. When in doubt, call the business' customer service number (available on your account statement) to confirm the status of your account. Do not use telephone numbers found on the suspected Web site or email.
- Be cautious of downloads. Installing unknown software on your computer can put your personal information at risk and potentially harm your computer's hard drive. Make sure the software comes from a legitimate Web site, not an e-mail message. If you are not sure whether you should download a program, contact a customer service representative for more information.
- Always type in the URL of the Web page you need. Phishing scams rely on embedded links that take you to fake Web sites. It is safer to type your intended Web address directly into your browser so you know you are visiting the legitimate site.
- Protect your password. Do not write down sensitive personal information such as your login ID, password or Social Security number.
- Keep your computer up-to-date. Industry best practices recommend that you install anti-virus and firewall programs to help keep your computer safe and that you keep updated with the latest Security improvements of your software providers.
Report an online scam
If you receive suspicious e-mail that appears to come from Accurint, please notify us immediately by forwarding the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (do not open any attachments or click any links found in the suspicious e-mail).
Learn more about phishing
To learn more about phishing, review the suggested materials below:
- phishing brochure provided by The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
- "How Not to Get Hooked by the 'Phishing' Scam," available at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/phishingalrt.htm,
- "ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name," available at: www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/idtheft.htm.
Recent phishing scam
- Some customers have recently received e-mail messages thanking them for their order and advising them their credit card has been charged. The email directs them to login to their account and shows an invoice for 500 Look-Up Credits and mentions an amount of $499.99
This e-mail message includes a link that appears to take customers to Accurint Web sitehowever; the Web pages they go to are not legitimate. They actually take customers to fake Web pages where the scammers may collect login ID, password and account information, they can also install malicious software (also known as spyware, malware, keyloggers, virus, etc. on your computer). If you receive a suspicious e-mail message, please do not open the email or click on any links it may have.
General Security Tips
While anyone can fall prey to fraud and identity theft, many ways exist to minimize your risk. Accurint provides these security tips so you can guard against fraud and identity theft.
- Never give out personal information online or over the phone unless you have initiated the contact. Accurint will never request that you submit confidential information over non-secure channels such as e-mail or phone calls initiated by us.
- Avoid using easily guessed or learned information for as your online password
- Avoid writing down passwords
Personal Computer Security
One way a thief can get personal information about you is from your home computer. The following tips detail how you can add to the security of personal information on your home computer.
Passwords and User IDs
For each computer or online service you use, you should have a user ID and password. Try to create the most unique password, and protect it. Commit your password to memory and do not share it with anyone.
The following easily-identifiable items should be avoided when creating passwords:
- Your birth date or a family member's birth date
- Names of family members or pets
- Dates of important events, such as anniversaries
Tips for creating strong passwords:
- Use a combination of numbers, letters and punctuation.
- Longer passwords are better.
- Make sure it is something you can remember without writing it down.
Enable IP Restrictions for your Accurint Account
System administrators can prevent unauthorized access by restricting their Accurint account to a specific IP address or range of IP addresses. Contact Accurint Technical Support at email@example.com to learn more about IP restrictions or go to the Security tab of the My Account Section.
Install and Use Anti-Virus Programs
Viruses can infect a home computer in many ways: through floppy disks, CDs, e-mail, Web sites and downloaded files. Anti-virus programs help protect your computer against most viruses, worms, Trojans and other unwanted invaders that can make your computer "sick." Viruses, worms and the like often perform malicious acts, such as deleting files, accessing personal data or using your computer to attack other computers. If a file is infected with a virus, most anti-virus programs provide you with options of how to respond, such as removing the harmful item or deleting the file. Installing an anti-virus program and keeping it up-to-date is the best defense for your home computer.
Firewalls: What Are They and How Do I Use Them?
Before you connect your computer to the Internet, you should install a firewall. A firewall can be generally described as a security guard for your home computer. The guard is a piece of software or hardware that helps protect your PC against hackers and many computer viruses and worms. With a firewall, you define which connections between your computer and other computers on the Internet are allowed and which are denied. There are firewall programs, both free and available for purchase that provides the capabilities you need to help make your home computer more secure.
E-mail viruses and worms are fairly common. Here are steps you can use to help you decide what to do with every e-mail message attachment you receive. You should only open and read a message that passes all of these tests:
- The know testis the e-mail from someone you know?
- The received testhave you received e-mail from this person before?
- The expect testwere you expecting e-mail with an attachment from this sender?
- The sense testdoes the e-mail subject make sense based on who is sending the e-mail? Would you expect this type of attachment from this person?
- The virus testdoes this e-mail contain a virus? To determine this, you need to install and use an anti-virus program.
Purchasing and Installing Programs
Apply these practices when you select software for your home computer.
- Learn as much as you can about the product and what it does before you purchase it.
- Understand the refund/return policy before you make your purchase.
- Buy from a local store that you already know or a national chain with an established reputation.
Keep Your System Up-to-Date
Most software vendors provide free patches to fix problems in their products. You can usually download these patches from the vendor's Web site. When you purchase a program, it is a good idea to find out how the vendor provides customer support.
Backups: How Important?
It is a good practice to back up important files and folders on your computer. To back up files, you can make copies onto media that you can safely store elsewhere, such as CDs or floppy discs.
For more information on home computer security, visit http://www.cert.org/.