What is a Phishing Scam?

Phishing is a scam used by identity thieves to trick you into providing your sensitive personal or financial information. Thieves use official-looking emails to impersonate trusted entities like banks, credit card companies, and online resources like eBay or PayPal. These emails are used to lure unsuspecting consumers to a particular website through a link where they will be asked to enter their information. According to a study done in 2006, approximately 109 million people received a phishing email of some sort in that year.

Phishing Attacks

Steps to avoid Phishing Scams:

Protect your Personal Information:

  • To protect yourself from falling victim to a phishing scam, it's important to be very cautious with your personal information including your usernames and passwords.
  • Some phishing scams divert you to a fraudulent website designed to look like your bank's website or a similar trusted source.
  • When you enter your username/password and other information, that information is transmitted to the con artist, who can abuse it later on.

Beware of Suspicious Emails and Do not Click Suspicious Links:

  • Be very suspicious of any emails you receive from trusted entities like your bank.
  • If the email contains a link, don't click on it.
  • Deceptive links that mimic legitimate URL addresses are a common tools con artists use in phishing scams.
  • While these addresses may look official, they usually contain inconspicuous differences that redirect you to a fraudulent site.
  • Instead of clicking on the link, type in the web address of the institution into the browser to access the website.

Know the Common Phishing Language:

  • Look out for common phishing language in emails like "Verify your account."
  • Legitimate businesses will not send you an email to ask for your login information or sensitive personal information.
  • Also, look out for emails that try to convey a sense of urgency.
  • Warnings that your account has been compromised, for example, are a common way to lure victims. Again, contact the company directly to inquire about such emails rather than using any link or other contact information provided in the email.
  • Finally, be wary of any email that does not address you directly.
  • While some phishing scams will use your name in the email, many are sent out as spam messages to thousands at a time.
  • Most legitimate businesses will use your first and/or last name in all communication.

Count on authenticated websites:

  • If you visit a website with a padlock, click on the padlock.
  • It should show you the name of the organization that applied for the padlock. If the name does not match the name you know, be very suspicious.
  • To learn more about padlocks and the security they provide online, visit InstantSSL.com.

It's good practice to look at all the emails and websites suspiciously. Getting sucked into a phishing scam can cost you thousands of dollars and a good amount of your valuable time. An ounce of prevention now can save a pound of cure later.

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