Safety & Security Information

Protect Your Identity

Examples & Information about Recent Fraud Scams

You've probably heard about identity theft, people stealing other people's personal information to use for illegal purposes. In a new scheme called "phishing" (pronounced "fishing"), ID thieves trick people into providing their Social Security numbers, financial account numbers PIN numbers, mother's maiden names, or other personal information by pretending to be someone they are not.

How does phishing work?
  • The most common form of phishing is by email. Pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, or government agency the sender asks to "confirm" your personal information for some made-up reason. Typically, the email contains a link to a phony website that looks just like the real thing. You enter your personal information on the website and send it into the hands of identity thieves.
  • Phishers also use the phone to hunt for victims' personal information.

How can you tell is the person or company who contacted you is legitimate or a con artist?
  • Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information. It's a warning sign that something is "phishy". Legitimate companies and agencies do not operate that way.
  • Don't click on links in emails that ask you to provide personal information. To check whether an email or call is really from the company or agency, contact it directly by phone or online. If you don't have the telephone number, get it from the phone book, directory assistance, or the Internet. Use a search engine to find the official website.

What should you do if you get hooked by a phishing scam?
  • If you provided account numbers, PINs or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with which you have those accounts immediately.
  • Put a "fraud alert" on your files at the credit reporting bureaus. For information about how to do that and other advice for ID theft victims, contact the Federal Trade Commission's ID Theft Clearinghouse at 877-438-4338. The TDD number is 202-326-2502.
  • Even if you didn't get hooked, you should report phishing to the company or agency that was being impersonated and the National Consumers League's National Fraud Information Center,, or toll-free, 800-876-7060. The TDD number is 202-835-0778.

Remember, security tools such as PIN numbers and passwords help keep your transactions safe. Keep them private.

Learn more about how to protect your personal and financial information at

Merchants such as PayPal and eBay warn you to beware of fraudulent emails that ask you to "verify" account information by providing your Card Number and/or PIN. The ATM PIN you use with your VISA Check Card should never be requested by any merchant.

Click on the links below for more information: