It happens every day, to people who thought it couldn't happen to them. And now, their credit rating is ruined and they have months of work ahead of them to get it repaired.
That's why companies like Pay Pal and eBay are so careful to warn you abut clicking a link in any email that doesn't include your user name. That's why your banks warn you not to answer an email, but to log in to your account at the bank website if you have a question.
And that's why you must never give out personal information over the telephone unless you are the one who instigated the call and you know you're talking to the right person.
But every day, someone is fooled by what is now called "Phishing." Every day my email contains at least one message that, if answered, could give some thief my personal information. I know better than to answer, but not everyone does, and they become victims.
Telephone scams rank right up there with phishing. One of the newer ones involves the caller telling you that you failed to show up for jury duty. When you tell them you didn't know you had been called, they assure you that they can help... right after you give them your information. Others call and pretend to be your friendly bank officer, just updating records.
Add to that the fact that almost everything about you is on line somewhere, and you can see that a determined crook can access everything including your account numbers, your Social Security number, your date of birth, spouse's name, address, and even your medical records.
Talented hackers can get in almost any database in the world.
And then there's carelessness - remember just a few months ago when the Veteran's Administration announced that thousands of names had been lost when a careless employee lost a laptop computer?
So what can you do?
Never give out information, either on the phone or on the computer. Keep your credit cards in a safe place, and never let them out of your sight when you're paying for a purchase. Read your credit card bills as soon as they come in, and verify that all the charges are yours.
Finally, keep a close watch on your credit report. To be safe, you should check it monthly. Then, if you see something unusual, you can take immediate steps to stop the thief in his or her tracks.
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