How to Spot Fraud

Fraudulent activity comes in many different forms.

Tactics that fraudsters use all share the same goal: to obtain your personal, confidential and financial information.

Fraud tactics include

Dumpster Diving: Thieves rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper that includes your personal information.

Phishing: A scam that involves the use of replicas of existing web pages to try to deceive you into entering personal, financial or password data. Often suspects use emails or texts with a sense of urgency or scare tactics (such as threats to close accounts) in order to get you to visit a fake site.

Vishing: Vishing is a type of phishing attack where the attacker uses a local phone number in a fake email or text message. The goal is to fool you into believing the message is legitimate by instructing you that responding to the request by phone is safer than responding electronically. The unsuspecting caller is then tricked through an automated phone system to provide sensitive information.

Pharming: Pharming takes place when you type in a valid web address and you are illegally redirected to a the fraudster's website. These fake websites ask for personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information.

Spoofing: Spoofing is when an attacker masquerades as someone else by providing false data. Phishing has become the most common form of web page spoofing. Another form of spoofing is URL spoofing, when an attacker exploits bugs in your web browser in order to display incorrect URLs in your browser location bar. Another form of spoofing called "man-in-the-middle" occurs when an attacker compromises the communication between you and another party online. Many firewalls can be updated or configured to significantly prevent this type of attack.

Spyware: Loaded on to your computer unbeknownst to you, spyware is a type of program that watches what you do online and forwards information to someone else. It is most often installed when you download free software.

Pop-Ups: A form of web advertising, pop-ups are intended to increase web traffic or capture email addresses. However, sometimes pop-up ads are designed with malicious intent, like when they appear as a request for personal information from a financial institution, for example.

Malware: Also known as "malicious software," malware is designed to harm, attack or take unauthorized control over a computer system. There are many types of malware (such as viruses, worms, and Trojans), and they're commonly spread through email attachments and downloads. A common Trojan component is a "keystroke logger," which captures a user's keystrokes in an attempt to capture their credentials and send them to the attacker.

Virus: A computer virus is a malicious program that attaches itself to and "infects" other software applications and files without your knowledge. Viruses can carry what is known as a "payload," executable scripts designed to damage, delete or steal information from a computer.

A virus is a self-replicating program, meaning it copies itself when you execute a program or open an "infected" file.

Viruses commonly spread from computer to computer when you send emails with "infected" documents attached.

RetroVirus: This virus specifically targets your computer's defenses. It will look for vulnerabilities within your computer operating system or any third-party security software. Most security vendors have some form of tamper-proof measure in place, so it is important to keep your security software up-to-date. RetroViruses are usually combined with another form of attack.

Worm: A worm is similar to a virus but with an added, dangerous element. Like a virus, a worm can make copies of itself; however, a worm does not need to attach itself to other programs and it does not require a person to send it along to other computers.

Worms are powerful malware programs because they cannot only copy themselves, they can also execute and spread themselves rapidly across a network without any help.

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