We’ve all seen them, emails from a seemingly trustworthy business or individual asking for personal information such as your full name, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or bank account information.
Perhaps it’s to "verify your account" or to "update your personal information and profile". But, more likely than not, these emails are being sent as part of a phishing expedition.
“Phishing” is an activity that attempts to acquire personal information for fraudulent use. Many fraudsters “phish” by masquerading as a trustworthy business, sending very convincing emails and even creating websites that mimic a legitimate company. These fraudsters may use a web page, email, or others uses of the Internet to solicit personal information which can be used to steal your identity or finances.
The Anti-Phishing Act (A2538, S171) was recently introduced into the legislature which would prohibit online phishing for personal information.
“This is an issue that affects all internet users but especially seniors or other newcomers to the internet who might be more vulnerable, and less cautious, online,” stated Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, a primary sponsor of the Anti-Phishing Act. Bramnick advises, “If you are contacted on the internet for any personal information whatsoever, do not respond. It could be a scheme to steal your finances or identity.”
According to Sy Larson, AARP New Jersey State President, “AARP supports the Anti-Phishing Act which could protect New Jerseyans from identify theft. We should all take action to protect ourselves from phishing and other fraudulent activities.”
How to Protect Yourself
Even if you think you are receiving an email from a trusted or legitimate source that is asking for personal information, do not respond. Instead, if you feel that you have a preexisting relationship with that company and that this is a legitimate inquiry, open a new browser page and type in their web address (not the address given in the email). This will prevent you from being directed to the fraudster’s webpage. “Frankly, if you have a preexisting relationship with the company, they shouldn’t be asking you for personal information over the internet or email,” states Bramnick.
What to Do?
If you are suspicious of online activities that you think might be “phishing”, or if you have been a victim of phishing, save the email or online communication and report it to the Division of Consumer Affairs at (800) 242-5846.