Phishing is a term used to describe a type of internet fraud that uses email and instant messenger to obtain confidential information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or Social Security numbers. A common phishing tactic is to send a fake email to a victim purporting to be from a legitimate institution requesting that the victim go to a website to verify his personal information. The website the victim is directed to is also fraudulent and the personal information that is entered at the website is collected by the criminal to execute identity theft. The most common companies targeted for phishing scams are PayPal, eBay, and online banking institutions.
The following is a list of suggestions for avoiding phishing scams:
(from the Anti_Phishing Work Group website: http://www.antiphishing.org/consumer_recs.html)
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
- unless the email is digitally signed, you can't be sure it wasn't forged or 'spoofed'
- phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediately
- they typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.
- phisher emails are typically NOT personalized, but they can be. Valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are personalized, but always call to check if you are unsure
- Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don't know the sender or user's handle
- instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser
- Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information
- you should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
- Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
- Phishers are now able to 'spoof,' or forge BOTH the "https://" that you normally see when you're on a secure Web server AND a legitimate-looking address. You may even see both in the link of a scam email. Again, make it a habit to enter the address of any banking, shopping, auction, or financial transaction website yourself and not depend on displayed links.
- Phishers may also forge the yellow lock you would normally see near the bottom of your screen on a secure site. The lock has usually been considered as another indicator that you are on a 'safe' site. The lock, when double-clicked, displays the security certificate for the site. If you get any warnings displayed that the address of the site you have displayed does NOT match the certificate, do not continue.
- Remember not all scam sites will try to show the "https://" and/or the security lock. Get in the habit of looking at the address line, too. Were you directed to PayPal? Does the address line display something different like "http://www.gotyouscammed.com/paypal/login.htm?" Be aware of where you are going.
- Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites. These toolbars match where you are going with lists of known phisher Web sites and will alert you.
- The newer version of Internet Explorer version 7 includes this tool bar as does FireFox version 2
- EarthLink ScamBlocker is part of a browser toolbar that is free to all Internet users - download athttp://www.earthlink.net/earthlinktoolbar
- Regularly log into your online accounts
- don't leave it for as long as a month before you check each account
- Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card satements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate
- if anything is suspicious or you don't recognize the transaction, contact your bank and all card issuers
- Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
- Always report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:
- forward the email to email@example.com
- forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org
- forward the email to the "abuse" email address at the company that is being spoofed (e.g. "email@example.com")
- when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intact
- notify The Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI by filing a complaint on their website: www.ic3.gov/