Once identity thieves have your personal information, they use it in a variety of ways.
Phishing is an identity-theft scheme in which fraudulent emails solicit confidential information by impersonating banks and other institutions.
In the nationally representative survey of 2,000 homes with Internet access, less than 1 percent of respondents said they had lost between $100 and $1,000 through phishing scams. Four of those surveyed admitted to losing over $1,000, which translates to some 400,000 Internet users nationwide that would have lost $1,000 or more to phishing.
Phishing scams are on the rise. To protect against identity thieves, you should never directly respond to emails seeking personal information. Questionable messages should be verified by contacting the institution directly.
Another way to protect against phishing is to give an incorrect password on the first try. A phishing site will accept an incorrect password, while a legitimate site won't.
Finally, be pre-emptive. Before you even open your email box and attempt to outwit the phishing experts, always update your virus protection.