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Somebody asked me:
“I recently received an email notifying me that my account with Ebay had been suspended and I had to fill out a form to re-activate it. They asked for all kinds of personal information. Is this legit?”
I’m sorry to say that you’ve been the victim of what’s known as “Phishing” which is a new, dangerous breed of spam. This spam doesn’t ask you to buy anything, but rather warns you about having your account canceled unless you fill out a form. The official-looking form asks you the deepest, most personal information such as mother’s maiden name, social security number, bank account number numbers, bank card PIN access codes, and the like.
Of course what really happens is that this information goes to a thief who proceeds to take all the money out of your bank account and uses your credit cards to go on a shopping spree. Disclosing this kind of personal information gives someone else everything they need to completely steal your identity and perhaps cause a lot more damage than “just” stealing your money; for example, a criminal that gets arrested can use give out your identity instead. Suddenly, you have a criminal record!
How can you avoid becoming a victim of a Phish? Here’s a super-easy way: If you get an email that warns you of an account being canceled, don’t click on any of the links in the email under any circumstances, no matter how legitimate they may seem. Instead open up a new browser window and go ahead and log into your account using your known user name and password. If your account is truly in danger of getting canceled, the Web site will repeat the warning and tell you how you can recover from it.
Today’s Internet-connected world brings fantastic productivity but you must always be vigilant about scams like Phishes. It’s sad to say but you just can’t trust email these days, especially emails that “smell like a Phish”. But the good news is if you just don’t click on that link, and instead open a new browser window, you can easily avoid becoming another victim of identity theft.