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Don't fall victim to Internet scams

Sept. 10, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University officials urge everyone on campus to be wary of e-mail hoaxes and counterfeit Web sites used to steal personal and financial information.

Each year, millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft and other forms of fraud carried out through e-mail, instant messaging and network hacking. In many cases, people are tricked into revealing their credit card numbers, account passwords and Social Security numbers to someone claiming to be from a familiar or trusted bank, credit card company, school, hospital or government agency.

How can a hoax be distinguished from a legitimate request to verify account information? According to Thom Myers, WMU director of electronic communication, no legitimate organization should ever ask you to provide or confirm sensitive information via e-mail.

"The best practice is to delete questionable messages immediately," Myers advises. "Even if the sender claims to be from WMU, the IRS, or your bank or credit union, do not reply and do not provide any information to the sender."

More than 12 million Americans will fall victim to identity theft this year--follow these tips to avoid being one of them.

Beware of these common scams

  • Threatening to close your account unless you provide personal information immediately.
  • Claiming to need updated personal information on your account.
  • Offering a service that can only be provided with your personal information.

Prevent unauthorized access to your personal information

  • Never reply to any e-mail asking you to confirm your personal or financial information.
  • Never send your Social Security number; passwords; or credit card, bank account or other financial account numbers by e-mail.
  • Don't share the password to your Bronco NetID or other accounts with anyone.
  • Use passwords that are not easily guessed and contain a combination of letters and numbers. Change your passwords often.
  • Never publish your phone number, address or date of birth on social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace. Everything you post on social networking sites is public information, regardless of the privacy restrictions you have set on your account.
  • Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate.
  • Do not store passwords on your computer or have your computer or Web browser remember your passwords.
  • After viewing your account information, paying a bill or making any other online transaction, logoff and exit from the browser completely. This ensures those using the computer after you will not have access your account information.
  • Make sure you're using an up-to-date browser with all current security patches applied.

Stop the spread of fraud

Help the government investigate the illegal activities of criminals by forwarding all suspicious e-mails to the following groups:

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400