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How to fight phishing once you've been hooked

On August 17, 2011

  • It is important to act immediately if you think you have become the victim of a phishing scam.

(ARA) - As using the Internet becomes an increasingly personalized experience, it is now common practice for users to submit sensitive personal information to unlock access to a wide variety of services. Unfortunately, though most users exercise caution when offering such information in online spaces, there are still countless numbers of people who fall victim to sophisticated phishing scams every day through common email and instant messaging services.

Nearly one in five Americans report that they have been the victim of a phishing scam, according to the results of a survey conducted by Experian, the leading global services information company. Alarmingly, of those respondents who wouldn't or didn't report having been a victim of phishing, nearly two-thirds reported that it was because they didn't know how.

While taking proactive measures can help minimize your chances of being the unwilling participant in fraudulent activity, it's equally as important to know how to react in the event that you do find yourself the victim of a phishing scam. Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian, offers some dos and don'ts for the critical next steps you should take if you have been phished.


Notify law enforcement. The war against phishers cannot be won in isolation. It is important that you notify your local police department or other appropriate law enforcement agency of any instances of confirmed theft of your personal information as this may help prevent similar activity from happening to you or others in the future.

File an online report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can log on to for step-by-step instructions on how to file a report.

Contact sources that report fraudulent information. It's important to contact your bank or credit card companies that handle accounts that may have been compromised. Contacting a credit reporting company is also important. You can request that the credit reporting company add a fraud alert to your credit report and notify the other national credit reporting companies so they can do the same. As a potential fraud victim, you can request a free copy of your credit report and review it for any fraudulent information.

Contact the company that appeared to request the information fraudulently. If you suspect that you've received a fraudulent email or been contacted via instant messaging, directly contacting the company in question will allow you to either verify the request or notify the organization of phishing activity.


Delay reporting. Immediate action is essential to mitigate the potentially negative consequences that can result from fraudulent activity.

Take a narrow course of action. Partnership is the key to minimize the consequences of any form of identity theft; be sure to communicate appropriately with national credit reporting companies, credit grantors, data providers, law enforcement and government agencies.

Be embarrassed. Every year, a staggering number of people are victims of phishing activity. It's much more humbling to have to deal with the long-term consequences of identity theft than to come forward and seek assistance.

Reinvent the wheel. While it may be helpful to take additional precautionary measures in the future (e.g., subscribing to an identity theft monitoring service, such as that available at, it may not be necessary to replace your electronic devices (i.e., computer or smartphone) or reapply for personal documentation (i.e., Social Security number) but you should ensure that you have up to date anti-virus and desktop firewall protections.

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