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Guard against data-breach phishing scams

Double-check that spam filter: The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is alerting consumers to the first phishing e-mail it says stemmed from a massive data breach earlier this month (WalletPop April 8).

E-mail marketing firm Epsilon reported the breach on April 1 after hackers stole e-mail addresses and names from the company's databases, exposing millions of consumers to potential phishing scams.

Phishing occurs when scammers send e-mails that appear to be from legitimate companies in an attempt to acquire your personal information, such as account numbers. The scams can become even more deceptive--and convincing--when crooks obtain and use your name to target messages directly to you. This is known as "spearphishing."

According to the BBB, many more phishing attacks are likely to follow as a result of the data breach. Take these steps to protect your personal information:

•  Avoid links. If you receive a suspicious e-mail, don't click on any links contained in the message. You could be directed to a fraudulent website or to dangerous malware.

•  Don't share information. Legitimate companies will never ask for your personal information via e-mail. Don't respond to requests for financial account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other information.

•  Talk it over. Make sure all family members with an e-mail address know how to spot a phishing e-mail. Kids and older adults often are more susceptible to these types of scams.

•  Get secure. Before submitting credit card numbers or other sensitive information online, make sure the website is secure. A secure website starts with https at the beginning of the URL.

•  Watch for errors. E-mails that contain frequent spelling mistakes or poor grammar usually signal a scam.

•  Don't wire money. Never wire money in response to an e-mail request or to anyone you don't know. You'll be sending funds to a crook--and you'll be out the money when the scam is discovered.

•  Shield your computer. Update and run antivirus programs regularly.

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