The Federal Trade Commission has issued a Consumer Alert, “Fake Credit Report Sites: Cashing in on Your Personal Information,” that warns consumers about the dangers of a high-tech scam known as “phishing.” Some Web sites or unsolicited emails offering credit reports may be using these sites as a way to capture consumers’ personal information. After stealing this information, they may sell it to others who may use it to commit fraud, including identity theft.
The alert points out the following precautions consumers should take when visiting sites or responding to email that offer credit reports:
• Do not reply to or click on the link in an email credit report offer. Instead, contact the company by phone, or visit a Web site you know to be genuine.
• Always be skeptical of credit report emails. Be cautious of email originating from a domain other than .com.
• Check for misspellings and grammatical errors. Look at the company’s Web address to see if it is a real company’s address or a misspelled version of a legitimate company.
• Check to see whether the company’s Web address takes you to the sender’s site or re-directs you to a different Web address.
• Find out the owner of the site using a “Whois” search such as the search at http://www.networksolutions.com
• Leave any Web site that asks for unnecessary personal information, like a PIN for your bank account, three-digit code on the back of your credit card, or any passport information.
• All legitimate sites will respond to an electronic request for a credit report by asking for an additional piece of information to verify who you are.
• Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and “https” in the URL for a Web site to ensure that the site is secure. All reputable sites are secure.
• Watch your mailbox and credit card statements to look for the credit report you ordered and unauthorized charges on your credit card.
• Report suspicious activity to the FTC and the U.S. Secret Service. Send the actual spam to the Los Angeles Electronic Crimes Task Force at LA.ECTF.email@example.com and to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you think you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft Web site (www.consumer.gov/idtheft) to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from identity theft.
To obtain copy of your credit report from one of the major credit bureaus, contact:
To order copies of this or other FTC Consumer Alerts, visit www.ftc.gov/bcp/online/pubs.bulkordr.htm. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available for hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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