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How to avoid phishing scams

Residents of North Dakota may have heard the term phishing before. However, it is important to understand what it is and how it can affect a person. Phishing is the act of fishing for an individual's financial or other personal information. It commonly involves an individual receiving an email that looks like it is from a financial or government agency. However, it is actually from a person or entity committing a scam.

The email may ask the recipient to verify a password or take some other action that involves entering personal information. The individual providing the information is actually doing so on a server or site that belongs to the scammer or the entity running the scam. Once the person or entity performing the scam has the social security number, address or other identifying information of an individual, it can then be used to open credit or other accounts in that person's name.

Those who believe that they have been the target of a phising operation or have been the victim of identity theft should contact the proper authorities. This may be a financial institution, credit card provider or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. This is a joint venture between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Anyone who fraudulently obtains another person's personal information or digital property could be charged with Internet sex crimes or other Internet crimes. Jail time, a fine or probation may all be possible penalties for those convicted of such a crime. Those charged with a crime of this nature may wish to hire a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can cast doubt upon the charge in court. This may be done by seeking out expert witness testimony or by having evidence withheld from the jury if the case goes to trial.

Source: FDIC, "Phishing Scams", November 19, 2014

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