Don't Be The Bait When Computer Hackers Go 'Phishing'

December 2, 2004 – Posted at 6:08 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- It's called "Phishing," and no, it doesn't involve a rod and reel. It's the newest way crooks are trying to steal your identity.

"Any individual or business owner should never respond to any unsolicited emails or pop up websites that may appear on their computer," said Laura Miller, Arkansas State University Small Business Development, "Quiet often these websites are looking for personal financial information, and if you get one of those, you ought to just delete it."

It's a scam called Phishing, and you're the bait. Hackers send out e-mails, posing as financial institutions trying to lure you to reveal your personal information.

"They should not need to verify that information by the Internet. If there is ever any doubt, you should call the company and talk to somebody personally and make sure they are really looking for that information," said Miller.

Businesses can also be the victims of identity theft when they have fraudulent employees or people are able to access files that are confidential, such as your credit card numbers or social security number.

"Consumers often think this information is protected by the business, but quiet often it's very accessible to other people," said Miller.

And Miller said it's a boom business, "The average loss was over $4800 dollars per instance for businesses."

If it happens to you, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission, and keep an eye on your accounts.

"Call the financial institution for the information you released, maybe there is a hold on that account or maybe they have some kind of monitoring services they can offer," said Miller.

If you do receive a "Phishing" e-mail, it's best to contact the company requesting the data by phone to verify the information. Also, be sure to keep a close eye on your bank and credit card records and report any suspicious activity.