The Latest Email Scam Is Nothing New
Q: I recently received an email that supposedly came from eBay that said someone had attempted to log into my eBay business account without authorization (whatever that means). The email instructed me to click a link to re-enter and confirm my account information to make sure that my account had not been hacked. Being naturally paranoid I contacted eBay directly and found that my account had not been hacked and that this email was actually from someone trying to steal my eBay account information. Is there nothing that can be done about this kind of thing?
-- Wesley C.
A: The only thing you can do, Wesley, is be thankful that your paranoia kicked in because you were about to fall victim to just one of the latest attempts by thieves to steal your personal and credit card information.
As you discovered, the email you received was not from eBay, but from someone using a forged email address that gave the impression that the email was really from eBay. If you had clicked the link to “re-enter and confirm” your personal and credit card information, you would have been taken to a website that probably looked a lot like eBay, but was really a fake site created for the sole purpose of stealing your information. You would have been instructed to enter your eBay account information and other personal information, including your social security number, checking and savings account information, driver’s license number, and credit card number. In the end you would have supplied the thieves with everything they need to steal your identity.
The eBay scam is just the latest in a long line of sophisticated attempts to steal personal information through online means. Customers of PayPal, Amazon, Dell Computer, eTrade, Bank One, and many other online merchants have been the target of such scams in recent years.
The shear number of eBay customers is the main reason that eBay has become the most popular target of scam artists trying to steal personal information from individuals and businesses alike.
As we talked about way back in 2003, thanks to the Internet, stealing someone’s identity has never been easier. At any given moment, there are thousands of Internet thieves using all manner of high tech wizardry in an attempt to steal personal and business information from unsuspecting souls, and many times they can gain access to this information simply by asking the person to provide it through fraudulent means, like a fake email.
While most people are familiar with identity theft, most business men and women never think about it happening to them, at least on a professional level. Consider this: if a criminal can learn your business checking account number or the number of your company credit card, they can steal far more from your business than if they had simply knocked down the door and carted off your desk.
Here are a few ways to protect you from business and personal identity theft.
· Never give out your first name, last name, business name, email address, account passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, PIN number, social security number, or driver’s license number.
· Change your online account passwords every 30 days. Believe it or not, a hacker who steals your personal information can often guess your online account passwords in about two minutes. If your Charles Schwab online account password is your birthday or the name of your first born or family pet, count on a hacker cracking that code faster than you can say “Open Sesame.”
· Never provide personal information in response to an email or telephone call. Just because someone calls and says they are from Dunn & Bradstreet and need to confirm your business information does not mean they are really from Dunn & Bradstreet.
· Never give your business credit card number over the phone to place an order with someone who has called you unsolicited. If you are interested in what they are selling get their number, check out their company, then call them back to place the order.
If you think that you have become the victim of identity theft or think someone is trying to steal your identity or personal information you should report them immediately to the Federal Trade Commission. You will find more information on their website at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/.
For more information on what to do if identity theft happens to you visit http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs17a.htm.
You should also remember that no reputable online company will ever ask you to log in and completely re-enter your account information. Think about it. They already have this information. Why would they ask you to provide it again? The answer is: they wouldn’t.
Be careful out there.
Here’s to your success.