QUESTION: Is there anything I can do to limit the amount of spam I receive through e-mail? I often get e-mails asking for personal information, which I know I should not give out to people over the Internet.
ANSWER: You’re absolutely correct in assuming you should never give out personal information over the Internet. However, many people do, and that is one of the chief causes for identity theft in America.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, more than 10 million Americans have personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, bank account and credit card numbers, stolen each year. Criminals often use this information to fraudulently open credit accounts, obtain health care or receive government assistance under the victim’s name.
This is clearly a problem that is relevant to Pennsylvanians and investigators often find the root of the problem in the victim’s e-mail account. As is often the case, spam e-mails often claim to be from a business you deal with or have dealt with in the past and ask that you submit billing information. These types of e-mails are also referred to as phishing scams.
Not only can spam e-mails be a gateway to identity theft, but they often contain viruses or other damaging software that can have negative effects on a computer’s performance. Some viruses even go so far as to hijack a computer, allowing others to break in and access your software.
It is very hard to put a stop to spam e-mail, but a few remedies do exist for residents. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has an online complaint form for spam e-mail as well as junk faxes. Their Web site can be found at AttorneyGeneral.com. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) directs consumers to forward all spam to them at email@example.com.
These two agencies are good places to start, but the first line of defense against identity theft and phishing scams is being informed. Always be skeptical of attempts to obtain personal information via the Internet.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact me or my district staff. We are here for you and will help you in any way we can.
If you have a question you would like Rep. Sonney to address in an upcoming column, please send it to:
Rep. Curt Sonney
Room 149-B East Wing
P.O. Box 202004
Harrisburg, Pa 17120-2004
Rep. Curt Sonney
Pennsylvania House of Representatives