Protect yourself from phishing and other online scams

What is “Phishing”?

“Phishing” is a scam that uses email, pop-up messages, fraudulent websites, or spam (junk email) to deceive you into disclosing personal financial information such as credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, bank accounts, passwords, and other sensitive information.

Many of these fraudulent emails contain links directing one to a fake website that may resemble one’s bank website or some other trusted entity.  The fake website is designed to trick a person into entering his or her personal information.  The message may ask the person to “update” or “verify” account information.

Certain attachments and links could infect a personal computer with viruses, worms or Trojan Horses that allow criminals to capture keystrokes or other confidential information.

Customer Guidelines to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Phishing

  • Our bank will never contact you via email to request personal and/or security information.
  • Never enter your social security number or any other personal financial information in response to an email request.
  • Never send personal or financial information via unprotected email.
  • Never give your personal or financial information over the telephone, unless you initiated the call.
  • Review your account statements regularly, online and on paper.
  • Use security solutions on your computer to protect you from Internet threats. Anti-virus software, anti-malware software and a firewall are basic solutions.  If you have a broadband (cable modem, DSL, T-1) Internet connection, it is especially important that you have these security solutions.
  • Use anti-spyware and anti-adware solutions to keep your computer clean.
  • Don’t use easily-guessed or cracked passwords. Use unique combinations of upper- and lower-case letters, and add numbers and symbols.  Change your passwords regularly and don’t use the same password for multiple sites.
  • Never click on links in a suspicious email. Instead, open your browser and enter the web site’s domain name (e.g.,
  • “Patch” your computer operating system (Windows) regularly to close security holes that might be exploited.
  • If you have a wireless Internet connection, change the default admin password, do not broadcast your SSID (Service Set Identifier), enable your WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) key security (change your WEP key frequently) and implement MAC (Media Access Control) address filtering as four fundamental security measures.
  • Always be suspicious of email attachments and web links, even if they appear to be from a trusted source.
  • When making purchases online, always make sure the session is encrypted by looking for the “https” in your browser address bar. This indicates Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption is present.
  • For further protection when making purchases online, sign up for your credit card provider’s service that requires a personal password to complete online purchases. This way your credit card number cannot be used for online purchases without your password being entered.
  • If any websites that you access offer multi-factor authentication at login, utilize this security feature, to prevent anyone, who has access to your login credentials, from logging into your account.

Notify the Credit Reporting Agencies

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, notify one of the three major credit bureaus, ask them to place a “fraud alert” on your credit report, and send you a copy of your credit file.  The fraud alert will ask creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts.

It is a good practice to review your credit reports periodically, whether you have been scammed or not, to ensure the information being reported is accurate.

Notify the Bank

Banks might maintain a special email address to help their customers in these instances.  The email in question could be forwarded to the special email address.

If customers have responded to such an email and provided information about their account(s), the affected customers could call Guaranty Bank’s main telephone number for assistance – (800) 847-7454.

Notify the Proper Authorities

Forward your suspected phishing email to

If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at

Call the FTC toll-free at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)

Contact your local police department and file a report.  Get a report number or copy of the report.  Also, be sure to file the proper affidavits.

You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at Internet Crime Complaint Center(IC3) | Home Page

For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, go to Identity Theft | FTC Consumer Information  or call toll-free 1-877-438-4338.

This site also allows you to report your identity theft to the FTC’s Identity Theft Clearinghouse – a government database of identity theft complaints.

You can mail your information to:

Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington DC 20580

This information is shared with consumer reporting agencies, other government agencies and companies where the fraud occurred.

Other Scams

“You’ve won a free gift or the lottery, but…”

Sweepstake and Lottery Scams

Congratulations! You have just won the lottery and will be receiving a certified check for $200,000 U.S. CASH! Many lottery and sweepstake letters, e-mails, or phone calls are not legitimate and often based in international locations such as Canada or Nigeria. Con artists will generally convince consumers to send in money to claim a “prize” and the only thing that separates them from their “winnings” is a fee (for administration, processing, taxes, etc.) and proof of identity. Some general tips to recognize a scam include:

    • You did not buy a ticket. You HAVE to buy a ticket to win a lottery.
    • You do not live in or are not a citizen of the lottery country. Most lotteries are only open to residents of the country or state in which the game is played. It is illegal for U.S. citizens to enter foreign lotteries.
    • You cannot find the lottery name except on sites listing scam e-mails.
    • The e-mail or requestor asks for bank account information, driver’s license numbers, or other personal information.
    • To claim your prize, you might be required to travel overseas at your own expense (and personal risk).

Further information on sweepstake and lottery scams can be located through the Federal Trade Commission – or a simple “lottery scams” Internet search will provide other helpful advice and a listing of fake lottery companies.

Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud

This type of fraud first started in Nigeria, but is now prevalent in many countries. You receive an “urgent” letter or e-mail from an alleged “official” representing a foreign government or agency offering the recipient an “opportunity” to share in a percentage of millions of dollars. Common forms of this type of fraud include: disbursement of money from wills, purchase of real estate, transfer of funds from over-invoiced contracts, sale of goods, found monies, or contest/lottery winnings.

The fraudster may offer to transfer large sums of money into a victim’s personal bank account, which would necessitate the victim providing personal information (and possibly future identity theft). Another scheme may require the victim to deposit a check into their account and immediately wire a portion of the money to a third party outside of the country. These are generally counterfeit checks and the victim ends up with nothing but a loss of funds. Further information regarding this type of advance, up-front fee scheme can be found in the following links:

United States Department of State
Go to for more information.

Local Secret Service Office (if you have suffered a significant loss)
Go to for more information.

Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams start when someone gives you a realistic-looking check or money order and asks you to wire them money in return. The check is phony and it may take weeks to discover. The bank cannot be sure the check is valid and now wants the money back after the check is returned as a counterfeit. You are responsible for checks or money orders that you deposit, even if they are fake. There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money in return. Learn more at where you can take a fraud test, review videos, and learn prevention tips. The Federal Trade Commission’s Money Matters at, also provides helpful advice on avoiding money wiring scams.

What is Smishing?

With “smishing,” instead of a scam e-mail, a bogus text message is received. This is the latest twist on stealing your identity. You may get a text message (or an automated voicemail scam called “vishing”) stating that your account has been suspended (or debit/credit card blocked) and asking you to call a 1-800 number where your account number, PIN, and other data may be requested. Do not respond until you verify the legitimacy of the message by contacting your financial institution directly using phone numbers you are certain about, such as the customer service number on your statement or on the back of your credit card.

Other Fraud-Related Resources

The following is a list of links that may provide additional information on common fraud schemes:

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Go to for more information.

Federal Reserve Bank
Go to for more information.

Go to for more information.

Internet Crime Complaint Center
Go to for more information.

Go to http:// for more information.

Consumer Federation of America
Go to for more information.

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