• August H. Velten
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Every year around tax time, reports of email phishing scams increase.

Phishing is the act of using computers to fraudulently acquire sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, and user names & passwords. To accomplish this, thieves will send electronic communications designed to look like they are coming from a trustworthy entity.

Here are a few examples of phishing scams:

IRS or Treasury Department tax scams. These e-mail scams will typically warn you of a problem with an individual’s tax return, which can only be resolved after confidential information has been sent to the scammers. These scams may also be threatening and use scare tactics such as the threat of criminal prosecution if the information is not sent. Such scams may also include virus attachments within the e-mail.

Fast food entity voucher scam. Some fast food entities have announced that fake e-mails, which ask you to respond to a survey in exchange for a gift voucher, are being sent. The survey scam asks you for confidential personal information, which is then used for identity theft.

Disaster relief phishing scams. These scams exploit the terrible tragedy a geographic region where a disaster has occurred. E-mails claiming to be from humanitarian relief organizations ask you to respond with confidential information in order to complete a charity donation. Other related e-mails have also been known to contain viruses or hyperlinks to viral websites.

Listed below are a few recommendations you can follow to help protect yourself from phishing scams both at work and at home:

Never reply to a phishing e-mail.

Delete any suspected spam or phish from your mailbox.

Remember, legitimate organizations and government agencies will never ask you to provide confidential information via e-mail.

Do not open e-mails from unknown senders. Do not click on attachments or hyperlinks within e-mail from unknown senders.

Be wary of e-mail promising gifts or money in exchange for participating in surveys or by providing confidential information.

Investigate all charities or donation requests thoroughly before sending any money.

You can participate in helping to stop these kinds of scams by sharing this information with your family, friends, and co-workers.

August H. Velten, CLU, is a Space Coast resident and guest columnist, who has served as a financial planner for the past 40 years. He is the president of August H. Velten CLU & Associates Inc., and serves as an instructor with Adult Financial Education Services. Contact him at aveltenclu@cfl.rr.com or (321) 622-5418.

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