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Reloading is the name for the scam when scammers go back to victims of scams, identity theft, or hacking, purporting to provide assistance in straightening out the mess created when the victim was first harmed, when in fact, what the scammers are actually doing is getting more money out of the victim under the guise of helping the victim or getting more personal information from the victim that leads to further identity theft. This happened in response to the Target hacking. Although Target was legitimately contacting its customers by e-mails, so were identity thieves purporting to be either Target or a consumer protection agency. In both cases, the identity thieves attempted to lure the victims into clicking on links in the e-mails. These links either downloaded malware onto the victim’s computer and permitted the identity thief to steal all the information from the victim’s computer and lead to the person becoming a further victim of identity theft, or led to a page where the victim was prompted to provide personal information directly, which would lead to identity theft. In other circumstances, the victim was told that he or she had to pay for assistance from the phony consumer protection agency.

No legitimate consumer protection agency such as the Federal Trade Commission or your local state attorney general’s consumer protection division ever requires you to pay for their services. Never click on links in e-mails regardless of how legitimate the e-mails look until you have confirmed that they are indeed legitimate. In the case of Target, as with other companies, don’t click on the links in their e-mails, but rather go directly to their legitimate website at an address that you know is accurate for further information. Also, do not provide personal information to anyone until you have confirmed that the person, company, or agency both is legitimate and has a real need for the information. Finally, make sure that your computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone are all protected with the latest anti-malware software, and keep that software up-to-date.

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