Many Internet users shop and pay bills online, using credit cards and banking services to complete their transactions. While these transactions are reasonably secure, criminals are constantly trying to evade or override the security precautions banks and other enterprises use. A popular scam designed to enlist consumers' support consists of a fraudulent email masquerading as a communication from the bank itself, commonly called a spoof. Differentiating between legitimate and spoofed email can be particularly difficult as copying logo and design styles is fairly simple. Bank of America has specific procedures in place for dealing with spoofs.
Identification, Processing and Prevention
Determine if the email is fraudulent. If you receive an email that requests your social security number, your credit card number or your savings/checking account number you probably have a fraudulent email. Likewise, if an official-looking email provides you a link to its site and instructs you to use that link to log into your account, that's also likely to be fraudulent. Bank of America states that the information requested is often presented as urgently needed by the company, sometimes accompanied by a threat that your account will be closed unless the information is provided. Another ploy utilized by criminals is the too-good-to-be-true offer. Don't be drawn in by promises of loans or sales that can only be accessed through the link in the email.
Forward the email to Bank of America at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do not follow any links within the suspected email, as these links may route you to a fraudulent website that could collect personal or financial information about you. Do not open any attachments to the email.
Instead, go to the Bank of America website directly. The Anti-Phishing Working Group archives contains screen shots of fraudulent websites that consumers can access if they are not sure of a website's legitimacy.
Alternately, call your local branch or dial the toll-free contact number for your bank and tell them you've received a suspicious email.
Notify the credit bureau and request a fraud alert. If you believe your financial privacy has been compromised, inform credit companies to prevent unauthorized activity from adversely affecting your credit rating.
Experian, Transunion and Equifax all allow fraud alerts to be attached to your name for a set period of time, short term (90 days) or long term (7 years). The fraud alert does not prevent you from receiving credit but rather guarantees that any application for credit will be confirmed before being issued. Furthermore, a fraud alert will provide evidence of the fraud for any illegal purchases made after the alert is activated. The burden to prove fraud lies on the shoulders of the victim.
You may also freeze your credit, which prevents any new credit accounts from being opened in your name unless you temporarily remove the freeze.
Filter spam to avoid future email fraud. Spam filtering provided by most email servers will decrease the number of fraudulent emails you receive. It will not, however, guarantee that fraudulent emails won't get through. Email filtering is not an exact science; legitimate emails may be filtered out with the spam, so careful monitoring of the filtering is suggested.
Install and update anti-virus software. Most anti-virus programs include email protection that will scan email attachments and help prevent viruses from invading your operating system via attachments.
Tips & Warnings
- Spoofed emails, many of which are originated outside the U.S., frequently include obvious grammatical and spelling errors.
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