In today’s world the Internet is becoming as common as sliced bread. Most people use it to send e-mails, browse for information, carry out banking transactions, and shop. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that some people are embracing the technology for less-than-kosher purposes. Phishing scams in particular are a major concern.
Fortunately, if you want to avoid becoming the next victim of identity theft, there are ways to protect yourself from harm.
What exactly is phishing (pronounced “fishing”)? Phishers use e-mail, brand hijacking, and scare tactics to catch uninformed people off guard and steal their private information. Usually these scammers operate by sending out a whole bunch of spam e-mails to a long list of recipients.
Most importantly each message is made to look as if it comes from a trustworthy company, such as eBay or a big banking institution.
The second element of the e-mail involves an appeal to your emotions.
To achieve this goal, the sender claims there is a problem or crisis that needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
The e-mails use urgent, professional language, and request personal information. They may even direct you to a spoofed web page where you are asked to input the requested data.
If you visit the fake website, it may appear to be authentic, and oftentimes the true URL is even masked to hide the fact that the website isn’t legitimate.
Moreover the website asks you to provide confidential information in order to solve the “issue,” which might include social security numbers, account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information.
Phishers base their attempts on the hope that a few fish in the sea will be tricked into believing the e-mail and web page to be genuine, and hand over their personal information.
In the face of an increase in phishing scams, it’s necessary to learn how to avoid them, if you can.
Being informed about spam e-mails and spoofed websites is one of the best ways to guard against falling victim to a phishing attempt.
If you know what to look for and can recognize the key factors of fraudulent emails, you will be able to protect your identity as much as possible.
For instance, spam e-mails may contain the company’s logo and appear official, but when you look closely, there are several warning signs that can give scammers away.
Sometimes the e-mails have spelling mistakes or the language doesn’t sound quite right.
The best indicator is the request itself – legitimate companies never ask for you to verify your account, or to send your account information via e-mail.
If you want to make sure everything is safe with your account, simply direct yourself to the website and log in directly to check on things, or call to confirm the sender’s identity and the truth of the request.
Do not send the information online.
A generic e-mail request is another indicator of a phishing scam. Since scammers tend to send spam to a large number of people, the e-mails they send are usually not personalized.
Authentic e-mails that arrive from your bank or other official organization include your name.
Never click on a link embedded in an e-mail message. Always visit the site on your own by typing it into your web browser and visiting it directly.
And never send confidential information to the sender by filling out a form present in the e-mail. Again, use your common sense and send the information over the phone or by visiting the website directly.