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Internet Safety


Avoid being Caught by Phishing Scams

Have you ever received an e-mail that was just too good to be true? Were you ever personally selected by an African prince who was willing to share a portion of his millions with you for a small favor, and of course your bank account information so he could send it to you? While these scammers certainly had some takers, many people recognize these types of scams. Many people know if it sounds to good to be true, it isn't true and it certainly won't be good. These types of scams are referred to as "phishing," pronounced just like "fishing," because thieves are in fact baiting people for personal information that they can use to steal from them.

As the public has become more suspicious, phishing scammers have become even savvier. Instead of offering the public something too good to be true, they began sending messages too scary to ignore. Many fell victim to phishing schemes where consumers believed they were being contacted by trusted Amazon.com or PayPal. E-mail messages were sent out telling victims that their accounts may have been compromised and they needed to click on the provided link, log-in and change their passwords in order to protect their accounts. Instead of protecting themselves, victims were handing over their information to thieves.

Some e-mail accounts will "catch" these phishing e-mails before they catch you but there is also software that can be installed with detection programming that recognize more standard phishing messages. With software, most of these messages should be delivered to your junk mail or spam mailboxes. Even with reliable protection, as phishing schemes become more sophisticated you need to take further steps to protect your identity and personal information.

What can you do to protect yourself from phishing scams?

  • NEVER give out any personal information, even something as simple as your address unless you know a person and you are certain you are on a secure on line site with encryption.
  • Be sure to use spam and phishing control options on your e-mail account and carefully monitor your e-mail messages.
  • Be very suspicious of any e-mail message that asks for personal or especially credit card information. Beware of any e-mail that asks you to click a link provided as it may take you to an unsafe site. Remember, if your information has been compromised your bank or service providers will contact you by regular mail not e-mail.
  • You can also utilize Snopes.com for information on scams, frauds, urban myths or viruses before responding. If you forward e-mails, they may contain tracking information and that puts your contacts at risk as well.
  • Use a software program that protects against phishing. Some antivirus and anti spyware programs also protect against phishing. Know your features and whether or not your protection program includes phishing. Software by Norton, Kaspersky and Panda may meet your needs.
  • Never respond to these messages. It confirms they have reached you and continues the Rather than click on a link provided, close the e-mail, open a new window, type in the address of the company (such as Amazon) and check their site for this information.

Lastly, it is so important to report any of these schemes to the institution being misrepresented. This helps stop phishing in more than one way. The institution can attempt to stop the fraud and they can warn other customers. Additionally, creators of phishing detection and protection programs can use this information to improve their products and better protect consumers from phishing scams and identity theft. By becoming knowledgeable of phasing scams and following these tips, you can avoid taking the bait and being reeled in by identity theft cons.

Lisa Carey is a contributing author for Identity Theft Secrets: prevention and protection . You can get tips on Identity theft protection, software, and monitoring your credit as well as learn more about the secrets used by identity thieves at the Identity Theft Secrets blog .

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