How can I avoid email based scams such as “phishing?”

“Phishing” is a scheme used to deceive consumers into providing sensitive financial information via email. It's important to know how this criminal activity works, and how you can protect yourself.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has investigated many instances of cyber-thieves who send legitimate-looking emails that claim to come from a person's internet service provider, online payment service, or bank. The emails request confirmation of a person's credit card number, bank account information, Social Security numbers, passwords, or other information. The scammers then use this information to get credit and make fraudulent purchases.

To avoid getting trapped by such a scheme, the FTC provides these tips:

  • If you receive an email that warns you, with little or no notice, that your account will be shut down unless you reconfirm billing or other financial information, DO NOT reply or click on the link in the email. Contact the company mentioned in the email by phone or using a website address you know is legitimate.
  • Avoid emailing personal and financial information. If you're using a website, be certain the website address is legitimate and look for the “lock” icon on the browser's status bar that tells you your information is secure during transmission.
  • Review credit card and bank account statements immediately to make sure there are no unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a few days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances. Report any suspicious activity to your credit card company or bank.
  • Some cyber-thieves create look-alike websites to fool consumers into providing financial information. To make sure you're visiting our authentic website, double click on the padlock in your browser and look at the “certificate information.” It should indicate that has been issued a certificate to host the website.
  • If you think you've been victimized by a phishing scheme, file a complaint at and visit their Identity Theft website to learn how to minimize your risk of damage.
  • To learn more about phishing, visit the FTC's phishing info page.

Please call us at 608.282.6000 or 800.282.5115 with any questions or concerns.