If you have received a suspicious email claiming to be a legitimate business, government agency, or financial institution, and are being asked to supply personal information over email, please use extreme caution before you take action.

Banks and other financial institutions will never ask for your personal information via email no matter how official the email may look. To verify any links that may be included in an email, do not click them, but use your mouse to hover over them to view and visibly verify the web link. If you do click any of the links in the suspicious email, you may become the victim of phishing.

Phishing is an attempt to steal personal data where a thief sends an email claiming to be from a legitimate business, a government agency, or a financial institution like your bank or credit card issuer. The website or email often asks you to confirm or update your account information, or may ask for your social security number, credit card information, personal identification number, password or user name, or other sensitive personal information. The thief then can use your personal information to commit identity theft or other fraudulent activities.

Phishing scams often rely on placing links in email messages, on websites, or in instant messages that seem to come from a service that you trust, like your bank, credit card company, or social networking site. You may also receive them in a Facebook message or Twitter Direct Message where it may look as though a friend is sending you a link or video. These websites or emails may mimic legitimate ones very successfully. If you think your bank or other organization requires your information, call customer service, or type the organization's Web address into your browser directly.

Recently, phishing scams ask for money or financial information in the form of an email from someone purporting to be a family member in an emergency situation. These emails might say they are from a family member on vacation who has found themselves in danger and in need of help. If you receive one of these, call the family member or their close friend first to try and verify the information.

For additional information on protecting your identity, view the Scams and Identity Theft sections of this website.