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Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) is urging residents to be cautious of a rapidly growing class of identity theft scams on the Internet that defraud individuals and financial institutions. These identity theft scams are commonly known as "phishing" and "pharming" scams.

"Estimated losses from these types of scams are constantly growing and the public's trust in the Internet continues to be undermined," said Legislator Johnson. "By making consumers uncertain about the integrity of the Internet, Phishing threatens to make us all less likely to use the Internet for secure transactions."

"Fraud is opportunistic, and fraud perpetrators are always among the first to appreciate the potential of new technology," said Nassau County Police Commissioner James Lawrence.

Below are some tips that Deputy Presiding Officer Corbin has provided to assist residents in preventing, coping, or fighting back from Phishing and Pharming attacks.

• Watch out for "phishy" e-mails. The most common form of phishing is e-mails pretending to be from a legitimate retailer, bank, organization, or government agency. The sender asks you to "confirm" your personal information for some made-up reason: your account is about to be closed; an order for something has been placed in your name; or your information has been lost because of a computer problem. Another tactic phishers use is to say they're from the fraud departments of well-known companies and ask to verify your information because they suspect you may be a victim of identity theft! In one case, a phisher claimed to be from a state lottery commissioner and requested people's banking information to deposit their "winnings" in their accounts.

• Don't click on links within e-mails that ask for your personal information. Fraudsters use these links to lure people to phony websites that look just like real sites of the company, organization, or agency they're impersonating.

• Beware of "Pharming." In the latest versions of online ID theft, a virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate website, you're taken to a fake copy of the site without realizing it. Any personal information you provide at the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.

• Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. Sometimes a phisher will direct you to a real company, organization, or agency's website, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will prompt you to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher.

• Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date.

• Only open e-mail attachments if you're expecting them and know what they contain.

• If someone contacts you and says you've been a victim of fraud, verify the person's identity before you provide any personal information.

• Job seekers should also be careful. Some phishers target people who list themselves on job search sites. Pretending to be potential employers, they ask for your Social Security number and other personal information.

• Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information.

• Act immediately if you've been hooked by a phisher. If you provided account numbers, PINS, or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with whom you have the accounts right away.

• Report Phishing, whether you're a victim or not. Tell the company or agency that the phisher was impersonating. You can also report the problem to law enforcement agencies through the national Fraud Information Center/ Internet Fraud Watch, www.fraud.org or 800-876-7060, TDD 202-835-0778. The information you provide helps to stop identity theft.

For more information on Internet identity theft scams contact Legislator Craig Johnson's Office at 571-6211.


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