You’ve probably been the recipient of one of those emails – an urgent message from your bank, telling you to login and pay your bill. It could be a message from eBay, informing you that your account has been suspended. The email looks real enough, the login looks the same as the real site, but they’re not the real thing. These emails and sites are fake sites set up by criminals to get your login information to steal your identity, your money, and your credentials.
What really is phishing? According to Microsoft,
Phishing (pronounced “Fishing”) is one of the fastest growing threats on the Internet and a form of identity theft. It refers to high-tech scams using phony Web sites with actual brands designed to steal valuable personal information such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers.
Phishers use many tactics including creating and sending e-mail messages or links to fraudulent Web sites or that appear to be valid in an attempt to fool you into submitting personal, financial, and password information.
Here are some simple ways you can avoid being the next victim of a phishing scam:
1. Never follow a link from your bank or other website asking you to log in. Type in the website address yourself to make sure you are at the right website and not the website of an impostor.
2. If you do get an important message from the bank, consider calling the phone number of your most recent bill – sometimes scammers even use fake phone numbers and call centers to get your information. That way you can be absolutely sure the message is from the bank and not a scammer.
3. Use the newest versions of web browsers. Both Firefox and Internet Explorer come built in with phishing filters which will stop you from visiting a website that has been reported in a phishing attempt. Consider installing anti-virus software that has phishing detection capabilities as well.
4. Always verify you are on the right website. Make sure the website is the one you meant to go to and not a cheap ripoff – look at the navigation browser in your toolbar, and verify that the Security certificate contains the name of the website/institution. If there is no security certificate, you are probably on a phishing site.
5. If you live in the US, use a free financial service like Mint to monitor your finances – if your finances are compromised or irregular activity is detected, it will let you know immediately.
6. Report all suspicious activity to the website that is being scammed and your internet provider. Also use the Report Suspicious Activity function in your web browser to prevent others from falling into a similar phishing trap.
This post was contributed by Maya Richard. She is a beginning writer currently writing about High speed Internet and other internet topics.