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How do I identify phishing scams and avoid becoming a victim?

Phishing scams may come in the form of phone calls, text messages, or emails. The scams can sound and look quite convincing, but there are some warning signs to look out for and things to consider:

  • If you did not initiate the communication, it could be a phishing scam and you should be wary of providing any information.
  • Be suspicious of all unsolicited emails and text messages.
  • Look for small differences or inaccuracies in the sender's email address or any websites it mentions.
  • Banks never ask you to verify your account information online.

Here are some ways to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Never provide personal financial information, including your Social Security number, account numbers or passwords, over the phone or the internet if you did not initiate the contact. Emails and internet pages created by phishers may look exactly like the real thing. They may even have a fake padlock icon that ordinarily is used to denote a secure site. If you did not initiate the communication, you should not provide any information.
  • Never click on the link provided in an email you believe is fraudulent. It may contain a virus that can contaminate your computer.
  • Do not be intimidated by an email or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.
  • If you believe the contact is legitimate, go to the company's website by typing in the site address directly or using a page you have previously book marked, instead of clicking a link provided in the email. Contact the bank yourself. You can find phone numbers and websites on the monthly statements you receive from your bank, or you can look the company up in a phone book or on the internet. The key is that you should be the one to initiate the contact, using contact information that you have verified yourself.
  • Never provide your password over the phone or in response to an unsolicited internet request. A financial institution would never ask you to verify your account information online. Thieves armed with this information and your account number can help themselves to your savings.
  • Review account statements regularly to ensure all charges are correct. If your account statement is late in arriving, call your bank to find out why. If your bank offers electronic account access, periodically review activity online to catch suspicious activity.

Last Reviewed: October 2020

Please note: The terms "bank" and "banks" used in these answers generally refer to national banks, federal savings associations, and federal branches or agencies of foreign banking organizations that are regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Find out if the OCC regulates your bank. Information provided on HelpWithMyBank.gov should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion of the OCC.

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