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Don't fall for the phishers' bait

WASHINGTON—Here's what you can do to avoid being lured by phishers:

DON'T TAKE THE BAIT

_Be proactive. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2004 requires the three national credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—to provide you with one free copy of your credit report each year. Review it for inaccuracies.

Contact Experian at 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742) or online at www.experian.com

Contact TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289 or online at www.transunion.com

Contact Equifax at 1-800-525-6285 or online at www.equifax.com

_Be cautious. Legitimate companies don't contact their customers via e-mail and ask them to confirm or update information, or threaten to deactivate accounts for failing to do so. Be suspicious of requests for account numbers, Social Security numbers or passwords.

_Avoid hyperlinks. Instead of using the hyperlink provided in the e-mail, connect to the company's official Web site through your browser. The links from phisher's e-mails can be difficult to distinguish from the real thing.

ALREADY HOOKED?

_Contact financial institutions with which you have accounts if you think you may have given personal financial information to a phisher.

_Place a fraud alert on your files at credit bureaus. It's initially effective for 90 days, but may be extended for seven years.

_File a report. Even if you didn't take the bait, report suspicious e-mails to the company being impersonated and your Internet service provider. If you were victimized, contact local law enforcement where the identity theft took place. Also, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338), or with the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center, online at www.IFCCFBI.gov

_Know your rights. For a complete list of ID-theft rights, go to www.ftc.gov/os/2004/07/040709fcrafrnfinal.pdf

_For more information on phishing, go to www.antiphishing.org or www.phishinginfo.org.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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