Categories Buying Guides Safety & Security Gift Giving Smart Finances - Debt Consolidation

Printable Version

Phishing Scams: Don't be the next victim

What is phishing?

If you've ever gotten an e-mail that began “Dear Valued Customer,” then you've probably been the target of a phishing scam. Simply put, a phish is an attempt to trick you into entering personal information into a fake website. Often, the perpetrators are searching for account numbers, pins, social security numbers, birth dates, or anything they can use to access your accounts or spoof your identity.

What are some typical phishing techniques?

A typical phishing technique is to provide a link within the fraudulent e-mail. You'll be asked to click that link and log in to your account to “fix” the urgent problem they've identified. When you enter your login information, it will be saved and used to access, and clean out, your accounts.

Beware any e-mail that uses alarmist tactics to get you to log on right away. There is usually a time limit and a consequence for not taking care of the “problem” immediately. Some say your account will be canceled if you don't verify it. Others say they suspect your account of being the victim of fraud, and you need to log in immediately to check on it. When you login, you've given the criminals everything they need to access your account.

Viruses are often used to perpetrate phishing scams. The virus infects your computer and then redirects your browser to a fraudulent site. You may type in the url for your bank, but you'll be redirected to a site that looks like your bank's. Once you've entered your login information, once again the criminals have access to your accounts.

What can you do to avoid becoming a victim?

Never follow a link that's provided to you in an e-mail. It's difficult to determine if it's legitimate, so it's safer to not follow it at all. Instead, use the link you usually use to access your accounts.

Keep your antivirus software up to date, and leave it running all the time. This will prevent a virus redirecting your browser to a fraudulent site.

Whenever you log on to a legitimate site, check the url, which is the “http” address in your browser. If you're providing personal information, such as account numbers or credit card numbers, that “http” ought to change to “https” to indicate the site is secure. If it doesn't, don't enter any personal information there.

Use a firewall for added protection between your computer and the internet. If you don't know how to set one up, pay a technician to do it for you. It's well worth the investment.

Never open a file attachment that comes with one of these e-mails. That should be another red flag to put you on your guard. A legitimate business won't be sending unsolicited file attachments.

Never give out personal information such as social security number, account numbers, or pins in an e-mail. E-mail isn't secure, and a legitimate business won't ask you to use it for that purpose.

No matter your level of computer skill, you can learn to spot and avoid phishing scams. You'll save yourself time, aggravation, and money.

This article was written by Joanie Raisovich.