Saturday, January 19, 2008

Government Emails and Identity Theft Issues

Identity thieves, or thieves who focus on identity theft issues, send out thousands of fake emails almost on a regular basis any more, saying they re representing government entities. So heads up if you receive emails saying they re from the Justice Department, Federal Trade Commission, Internal Revenue Service or other government agency or department. These emails may be trying to trick you. What happens is that these emails are part of phishing schemes. Phishing generally means that someone sends you fake or bogus emails with bad links in them. These links invite you to click on their bogus sites (i.e. not government sites at all) and submit some of your personal (confidential) information: maybe your complete name, social security number, etc. Some emails even have spyware attachments on them. One government department alone, the Treasury Department, reported receiving over 23,000 complaints about IRS-related phishing schemes since November 2005. Most involve hoax emails telling recipients that they have a pending tax refund and are under investigation. Email Safety Tips Get and stay safe with better email practices using these helpful tips: 1) Do not click on links inside emails from government agencies. Government agencies rarely communicate via email, and if they do, it’s in response to something you initiated most often. They communicate via postal mail. 2) Do not click on or save attachments that come with government emails. Delete these files. 3) If you receive communications that you are unsure of, call the agency first to see if the emails are legitimate. Most agencies are list on the web nowadays with contact information readily available. 4) Protect your computer and keep your safety software and tools updated regularly: - Windows posts updates regularly, especially security patches. Make sure you download these or at least check monthly for updates. Mark your Outlook or other calendar and check regularly. - ZoneAlarm, by Check Point, offers a free firewall download for personal use, a paid version for commercial use. Check out their products at: and get a firewall set up to protect form intrusions into your computer and via our email. - Get Anti-Virus software up and running now. AVG by Grisoft at: offers a free personal version and paid commercial version. - You also need anti-spyware on our computer. Ad-Aware by Lavasoft offers a free version and a couple of upgrades for payment at: So arm yourself: your computer and email for identity theft protection. Better safe then sorry! Author and internet entrepreneur Bernard Pragides offers expert advice and tips regarding identity theft. Learn more about identity theft and fraud by visiting his blog at

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