Avoid Phishing Scams and Online Identity Theft This Holiday Season

Commercial email senders such as retailers and financial institutions will significantly increase their email communications this month. While shopping and conducting personal business online saves time and hassle during the busy holiday season, it's more critical than ever to be aware of emails scams, online fraud and phishing attempts and be able to identify legitimate email.

Preying on the significant online shopping traffic and the general preoccupation of consumers between Thanksgiving and New Year's, email fraudsters are out in full force this time of year. But because email is increasingly valued for delivery of receipts, airline tickets, travel itineraries and shipping confirmations, it's important that users know what emails they can trust.

If you receive an email from your bank and want to check on account status or respond to the email, go to your bank's website manually; do not reply to the email directly or click on the link contained in the message.

* Do not confirm personal information via email. Accredited banks will not contact customers via email to request account details or social security numbers. Ignore and delete these suspicious messages.

* Many airlines, retailers and financial institutions are choosing to certify their email communications so that each message includes a trust icon. Look for this classification in your AOL or Yahoo! inbox to indicate the legitimate emails from the potentially fraudulent.

* Do not respond to commercial email messages that you are unfamiliar with. If, for example, you receive a discount offer via email for Store XYX that you want to take advantage of, visit the retailer's web site directly. Do not interact with the email offering unless you are positive it's legitimate and safe.