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The SALT Blog has mashed up YouTube videos with money vocab to help you make sense of (and remember) financial terminology. Today, we’re taking on an important topic that will help you keep your personal info safe: identity theft phishing.

Last week, a SALT member received a call from someone claiming to be affiliated with us. This person offered grant money—but only if the member first provided his credit card information.

This savvy member handled the situation perfectly. He didn’t provide the personal info, recorded the caller’s phone number, and called SALT member support to see if the offer was legit. It wasn’t, and his help allowed our security team to act accordingly.

This person experienced a tactic known as “phishing.” (Not to be confused “Phish”-ing, which isn’t as bad for your well-being. Well, depending on whom you ask.)

Identity thieves “phish” by posing as a legitimate business to collect personal information. Phishing can happen via phone, email, or the Web, and it’s impacted big-name companies like eBay, PayPal, and Bank of America.


By stealing your personal information, identity thieves can do things like:

  • Use your accounts freely.
  • Change the address on your credit card accounts.
  • Open new credit card accounts in your name.

These acts can have long-lasting consequences—but you can prevent them just by remembering this “free hugs” video.

Here’s how: Whenever you receive an unsolicited request for personal information, think about a reasonable (i.e., cynical) reaction to a guy offering unsolicited hugs: “Ummm, this is a little strange… why do you need this from me?”

Sure, this guy’s intentions are probably better than an identity thief’s (unless he’s stealing wallets while hugging people), but you’ll put yourself into a compromising position to find out.

And like how we can’t get this guy off the street—the police tried!—you can’t always proactively prevent identity theft. If you think before you act, though, you can keep your information safe.

Have an analogy that will help our readers remember how to avoid “phishers” (“phishermen?”)? Share it in the comments.

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  1. Glenn Hall September 11, 2012 / 4:44 pm

    I received a call a few months ago from someone claiming I won $3,000,000 plus a new car (a Bentley, no less!) He claimed to be calling from the MGM Grand in Vegas. I asked for his phone number and said I would call him back (big mistake – never talk to these guys – just hang up). He gave me what I thought was an 800 number. I called him back and told him never to call again, or I would call the police. The next day his “boss” called and said I would be making the mistake of my life if I did not accept this offer. These guys don’t take no for an answer! A few days later Verizon called and said there was a suspicious call made to Jamaica (this was the supposed 800 number I called him back with – actually a Jamaican number). To this day, I have 3 or 4 messages on my answering machine when I get home every night (I can make out a call center in the background when I listen). So if anyone ever calls you with “the prize of a lifetime”, slam the phone down on them!

    • Ryan Lane September 11, 2012 / 5:16 pm

      Yikes! I think they tried to hard… $3 million AND a Bentley. Come on. Bet they still got some people with it, though.

  2. Alex April 4, 2013 / 11:13 am

    This is a great post! Thank you. This ‘phishing’ problem is very frightening to say the least!! Being fairly new to the credit arena I am constantly looking for good, solid information that will keep me informed and headed in the right general direction. This post has several great points to consider and it really gave me a much clearer understanding on a few things. Thanks again for being here and providing help to people like me! I was also able to find some useful information relating to this sort of thing when I Googled the credit locker university. This helped as well.

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