What to Do If You Answer a Phishing Email

by Dan Keen

Phishing is the name given to an Internet scam where criminals send emails to unsuspecting victims in an attempt to lure them into giving financial and personal information. For example, a victim may receive an email that appears to be from his bank requesting his account number and passwords. The email tells the unsuspecting victim that this information must be checked because the bank has noticed unusual activity on the account. This is a hoax.

Contact the Impersonated Company

Notify the impersonated company about the email you received. Many large companies have a 24-hour, toll-free number to handle these kinds of emergency situations.

Notify Government Agencies

Forward the fraudulent email to spam@uce.gov, and to the Federal Trade Commission at their “Identity Theft” website: ftc.gov/idtheft.

File a Complaint With the FBI

File a formal complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center at their website: www.ic3.gov.

Close Accounts With the Impersonated Company

Quickly close the accounts you have with the company whose name has been fraudulently used in the email to you. For credit and debit cards, have the company issue you new cards with new numbers.

Report to the Three Major Credit Reporting Agencies

File a report with Experian (fraud line is (888) 397-3742), Equifax (fraud line is (800) 525-6285) and TransUnion (fraud line is (800) 680-7289). Notify them of possible identity theft, and request that a “fraud alert” be placed on your account.

Report Scam to Anti-Phishing Working Group

Report the scam to an organization known as The Anti-Phishing Working Group, which is comprised of law enforcement agencies, financial institutions and Internet security vendors. Email to them at reportphishing@antiphishing.org.

Be Alert to Identity Theft

Victims of phishing scams, which compromise personal and financial information, are likely to also become victims of identity theft. Keep a timely check on your bank accounts, and statements from store credit cards and major credit and debit cards.

About the Author

Dan Keen is the publisher and editor of a county newspaper in New Jersey. For over 30 years he has written books and magazine articles for such publishers as McGraw-Hill. Keen holds a degree in electronics, was chief engineer for two radio stations and taught computer science at Stockton State College.