Phishing is a scam whereby fraudsters use official looking e-mails or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims. It’s a scam that generates billions of dollars for the perpetrators. As phishing con artists and their e-mail messages have become more sophisticated and stealthy, more and more unsuspecting people are taking the bait. Approximately 5 percent of people who receive phishing e-mails get “hooked.”
Here are recommendations that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of phishing.
Do not reply to any e-mail or pop-up that asks for personal or financial information and don’t click on the link in the message, either. A typical strategy used by phishers is to send you official looking e-mails, complete with logos and other identifying information they’ve pinched from legitimate Web sites. Included in the e-mail is data that is designed to excite or worry you so you’ll react impulsively and without caution. Sometimes they’ll threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. Simply delete the bogus e-mail right away. If you need to reach an organization you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card.
Use anti-virus software and firewall tools and keep them up to date. Don’t use the links embedded in your e-mail, instant message or chat to get to any Web page unless you can verify the authenticity of the sender. Opening e-mail attachments can also be risky, regardless of who sent them, as they could contain a virus. Follow this rule: Use the keypad, not the mouse.
By typing in URL’s instead of clicking on links you insure that you’re getting to the desired site.
Only if you are using a secure website should you transmit your credit card numbers or account information via your Web browser, and even then some phishers have forged security icons.
Use different passwords for different sites. Granted it’s a nuisance, but this way if your information has been compromised on one site, you’ve limited the damage. When you log into your bank account to do business, don’t leave your computer unattended, and always be careful to log out properly instead of just closing the browser window.
Log into your bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis and watch closely for any unauthorized transactions. Some phishers cleverly use the tactic of siphoning small amounts of money from many account holders every now and then so it is not so obvious.
As consumers are smarting up to on-line scams, phishers are moving on to other media to launch their scams. Mobile phones are the latest targets. Ignore text messages purporting to originate from you bank urging you to confirm your account information or the account will be deactivated.
If any of your accounts have been compromised, close them at once. Promptly report any scams to the FTC Identity Theft website, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft, and to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, http://www.ic3.gov
Susan Costello is owner of Home Sweet Home Loans, dba of Empire H.L.C. in Grass Valley. You may reach her by calling (530) 273-8658. Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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