6 Tips To Help You Avoid Being Phished

"We recently learned that certain WestStar Bank user information was accessed without authorization, including potentially yours." 

"We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity."

"During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information."
If you receive an email asking you to "update," "validate," or "confirm" your account information, you could be a phishing target. Phishing is a type of scam in which criminals send seemingly authentic emails to gain personal information (bank account information, Social Security number, passwords or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are a few ways to avoid being hooked by a phishing scam:

  1. If an email or pop-up message asks for personal or financial information, DO NOT REPLY. If you’re concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new browser window and type in the company's correct web address yourself.

  2. If an email or pop-up message has links, it is best to not click them unless you are certain it is legitimate. Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software designed to weaken your computer’s security. If the link looks legitimate, hover your mouse over the link (without clicking it). A small window will pop-up with the true URL. If the URL differs from the one displayed as the link text, it may lead you to a potentially harmful destination. [For example (this link isn't harmful but is an example of how easy it is to redirect): https://banks.com]

  3. Know area codes can mislead. Some scammers send an email asking you to call a phone number to update your account or access a "refund." Because they use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, the area code you call does not reflect the true location of the scammers. Use the number on your financial statements or the back of your credit card if you need to contact the business.

  4. Use a firewall and anti-virus/anti-spyware software — and update them regularly. Anti-virus/anti-spyware software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting unwanted files in phishing emails which can harm your computer or track your online activity. Look for software that recognizes both current and older viruses, and updates automatically. A firewall helps make you invisible online and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources.

  5. Don't email personal or financial information. Email isn't a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you provide your personal or financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL that begins "https:." Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.

  6. Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address has not been changed and ensure you have not incurred any unauthorized charges.

If you believe you've been a part of a phishing scam, you can file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. Victims of phishing can also become victims of identity theft, so check your credit report regularly for any new accounts opened in your name. To learn more about email scams and deceptive spam, visit ftc.gov/spam.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.