Cyber criminals and fraudsters are stealing people’s banking account information and identities at an alarming rate. According to reports, in 2008 the Anti-Phishing Working Group received more than 640,000 fraud complaints from consumers.

This goes beyond stealing money. Cyber crime has a long-term effect on those that have been victimized. Feelings of distrust, insecurity, and loss on control stay with the victims for a long time after the crime has been committed.

Most types of cyber fraud are referred to as social engineering. Social engineering is used to describe the techniques used by criminals to trick people into revealing passwords or other information that can compromise the security of personal information. There are many forms of social engineering but they all share the same goal – getting access to your personal or account information to defraud you.

The most common forms of cyber scams include:

Phishing – Phishing attacks come in a variety of forms but are mainly done through e-mail. They can range from pleas of monetary help from foreign royalty to requests for account information from fraudsters disguised as a financial institution or other well- known organizations.

Vishing – Vishing involves fraudsters pretending to be associated with a financial institution or well-known business requesting personal or account information through the telephone or voice-enabled software on your computer.

SMiShing – The scams start as a mass text message that appears as a message from your financial institution or another business that retains customer accounts. These messages notify receivers their account has been temporarily locked or suspended and the receiver needs to call a telephone number or visit a Web site to unlock it. Of course, the telephone number or Web site requires account or personal information to unlock the account.

The greatest weapon you have in preventing fraudsters from stealing your account information or identity is protecting your information. Simple things like shredding your old information and not clicking links in unsolicited e-mails will help keep your information secure and lower the chance of having your information compromised.

Here are a few tips for preventing fraud from happening to you:

  • Do not give our personal information on the telephone, through e-mail, or over the Internet unless you know whom you are dealing with.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails.
  • Keep your anti-virus or anti-spy ware up-to-date.
  • Enable e-mail filters.
  • Do not use an obvious password, such as birth dates, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, last four digits of your Social Security number, etc. Protect your PINs and computer passwords; use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters and change them often. Never carry this information with you.
  • Shred all financial documents and paperwork before discarding them.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Only give it out if it is necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Keep you personal information in a secure place.
  • Notify your financial institution immediately when you discover a potentially fraudulent transaction.
  • Report lost or stolen SHAZAM® debit or ATM cards to 800-383-8000.

Above all, monitor your financial statements and credit report regularly fro unauthorized purchases or debts. The three nationwide consumer-reporting companies provide a free copy of your credit report each year when you ask for it. Contact information is:

Equifax – 888-766-0008 or 800-525-6285
Experian – 888-397-3742
Trans Union – 800-680-7289