Scammers "Phishing" To Steal Your Identity

It's called "Phishing" -- not telling a whopper about a big fish, but "Phishing" spelled with a PH. It's where scammers send out e-mails claiming to be from your bank and needing personal information. But it's all a scheme to steal your identity.

Brian McCabe, Southside Bank: "Things start slow and then they grow exponentially on the Internet, until they stop."

That is what happens with Phishing. They're mass e-mails, some might say spam, but it's not advertising a product.  Instead, it's luring you to surrender your identity.

McCabe says banks and credit card companies are having their logos and their good name ripped off.

"People tend to believe it, if it looks like something that hits close to them," he says.

It doesn't matter who you are. Anyone with an e-mail account can be targeted. Just since the first of this month, I've received several e-mails from companies, some I do business with, others I've never heard of, asking me to provide personal information or else my accounts will be closed or suspended.

When you click on the link in the e-mail, you might be taken to a fake website. Then you put in your Social Security, banking, and personal information. And then they've got you.

"There are hundreds of people getting that same e-mail," McCabe says.

He says never give your information to anyone unless you're sure their legitimate.

"Banks, by e-mail, would ask for very little. They would ask for you to give me a call, but generally it's a response to an e-mail that you've initiated."

The scammers are blanketing the net right now, experts say the best defense is education.

"A bank would not ask for information it already has."

Unfortunately, most victims of Phishing don't know it until problems start showing up on their credit report. If you think you've given personal information to someone you don't know, you should contact your banks and credit card companies. Plus, notify the three credit reporting agencies.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.