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How to Avoid Phishing Scams

Phishing is a type of fraud designed to steal your identity. Social-engineering schemes use 'spoofed' e-mails to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames, passwords and social security numbers. Hijacking brand names of banks, e-retailers and credit card companies, phishers often convince recipients to respond.

The number and sophistication of phishing scams is continuing to increase dramatically. While online banking and e-commerce is very safe, as a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. Here is a list of recommendations that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

  • 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, etc.
    • phisher emails are typically NOT personalized, while valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are
  • Don't use the links in an email to get to any web page, if you suspect the message might not be authentic
    • instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web adress in your browser
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information
    o 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
    • to make sure you're on a secure Web server, check the beginning of the Web address in your browsers address bar - it should be "https://" rather than just "http://"
  • 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, contact your bank and all card issuers
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
    • in particular, people who use the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser should immediately go to the Microsoft Security home page -- http://www.microsoft.com/security/ -- to download a special patch relating to certain phishing schemes

For more information, check some of the following sources:

antiphishing.org - Anti-Phishing Working Group
comparitech.com - Tech compared and reviewed
www.creditreport.org - Credit Report