Protecting Yourself from Internet Fraud
Widespread use of modern technology carries certain risks and dangers. While Benjamin F. Edwards & Co. (“Edwards”) takes special measures to ensure the safety of your personal information, your efforts can help to maintain your financial security.
Phishing is the practice of impersonating a trusted company or person in an attempt to gain sensitive information such as Social Security numbers, as well as account numbers and passwords. It is typically conducted by email, but it can also take place over the phone or by mail. Never provide sensitive information to anyone unless you personally know them and there is a valid reason for conveying the information.
Fraudulent emails often have the appearance of legitimate messages from financial institutions and retailers. Persons sending these messages are able to alter the “from” address, and add links leading to internet sites similar to trusted sites, when in fact they may host potentially dangerous viruses. These sites will commonly invite you to submit account or credit card information in order to gain information or products and services. It is always safest to type a website’s address into your browser rather than to rely on a link contained in an email.
To ensure the safety of your information, follow these guidelines:
- Never enter a password on the Internet unless you know the site to be authentic. Never give your password to anyone electronically or verbally. Edwards will never ask for your password.
- Use antivirus and firewall software, and keep them up to date.
- Do not supply credit card or other sensitive information to persons calling by phone. If you wish to obtain products or services from the caller, ask for the company name and their contact information. Verify the information through the phone directory or Internet before calling back.
- If an email appears to be from a trusted institution but contains multiple spelling or grammatical errors, it may in fact be fraudulent.
- If you have reason to suspect that an email message isn’t legitimate, do not respond to it. Instead, contact the company that purportedly sent the message to confirm the message’s legitimacy.
- Never open unsolicited or unexpected email attachments unless you know the sender, and verify that the sender intended to send them.
- Do not store personal information on public or shared computers, and always remember to delete your browsing history before logging out of a shared computer.
In addition to immediate financial risk, successful phishing exploits will often expose you to identity theft. Once your sensitive information has been gained by fraudulent individuals, it may be sold to others, used to obtain credit in your name, and may even jeopardize your personal safety.
Your information can also be endangered by burglary, virus intrusions, and “dumpster diving.” It is wise to invest in a cross-cut shredder to destroy personal documents, expired credit cards, and unsolicited credit offers. If you use your computer to store or access sensitive information, or to make purchases online, it is essential that you keep your virus protection software current.
If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft you should contact the following credit bureaus to place an alert in your credit records:
- Equifax: (800) 525-6285
- Experian: (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion: (800) 680-7289
In addition, you should file a police report and contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You should also contact your financial institutions if you believe your account information may have been compromised.