How to Avoid Phishing Scams
What is phishing? It is a relatively new phenomenon in the world of Internet scams, and it involves the sending of e-mail "alerts" which appear to have originated at places like eBay, PayPal, banks and other institutions with which you may have online accounts.
These fraudulent alerts warn you that your information needs to be updated or verified for some reason and they include a link which looks like a legitimate link where you might update account information or what-have-you. And this isn't an isolated phenomenon, I get dozens of these every day.
The funny thing is that when you have the status bar at the bottom of your web browser visible and you hold your pointer over the link, you can usually see where it will really take you if you click it; and typically, this is a totally unrelated domain (often only a numeric IP address shows) run by a scammer out to collect your personal information.
Many people don't notice these details while browsing, and it has been reported that up to 5% of the "phished" fall victim to the scam.
Your online identity is a valuable thing, and is becoming more valuable as more and more day-to-day activities take place on the Web. People are paying bills online, making travel plans online and even communicating their most private, personal feelings online.
Anyone who can steal your online identity (or, more accurately, in this case, con you into giving it to them) can, for all intents and purposes, *become you* in order to carry out all kinds of nefarious activities.
Here are some easy-to-remember ways to avoid the phishing scam.
1) Keep in mind that legitimate companies don't operate this way. No matter how shiny the bait, no company (and certainly no bank!) is going to use this method for this purpose.
E-mail is not a secure or 100% reliable means of communication, and they know this. Just as Microsoft doesn't send out software patches by e-mail, financial companies don't send out mail bearing fake links for you to follow. You can use a product such as
Norton AntiVirus 2005 3-User Home Protection Pack to secure your email.
Click here to find out more.
2) Keep your browser window's status bar visible, glancing at it before you click a link will very often show you the destination URL without your having to click and wind up in pop-up hell or some other questionable corner of the 'Net. This setting is usually changed somewhere under the browser's View menu.
3) Keep a close eye on your online accounts regularly. You should periodically
check in with your eBay, PayPal and other such accounts if for no other reason than to change the password.
If you change your password regularly, an e-mail feverishly telling you that your account may have been compromised will be even more obviously fake than otherwise, and you can laugh at the pitiful scammers as you drag the message to the Trash.
Checking your accounts manually will also give you the opportunity to see what the latest news may be straight from the horse's mouth.
4) Whatever you do, don't send personal information via e-mail to anyone you wouldn't
trust acting as you. If you think you may need to check the status of your eBay account, for example, don't respond to an e-mail asking you to do so; but, rather, login from the top-level eBay site and navigate to your account.
Phishing scammers are adept at setting up the fake link-target to look just like the corresponding legitimate page.
5) Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date and active. Use Products such as
Norton Internet Security 2005 (Click Here).
This is a good general policy that will help keep your computer free of harmful viruses and spyware.
Some phishing e-mails include attachments meant to run automatically because of poorly-configured e-mail software or for you to run manually when you're convinced by the fake e-mail that you should.
6) You should configure Windows to show filename extensions at all times so that you can see when an attachment that looks like nice.jpg is really nice.jpg.vbs, a Visual Basic script that can cause untold headaches.
Also, make sure your e-mail software isn't doing anything crazy with attachments
like downloading them automatically. Opening attachments you're not expecting is generally a bad idea anyway.
If you're concerned that you may already be a victim of a phishing scam, you should review all your online accounts for unusual activity as well as your offline accounts with banks, credit cards, etc. Any unusual delay in receiving statements should raise a flag.
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