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Sounds Phishy To Me... Avoiding Internet Scams

Aug 25, 2008
What the heck is 'phishing?' Well, it's a scam which uses e-mail to lure its victims. But, instead of harming your PC like a worm or virus might, it harms something even worse - your personal finances.

These 'phishy' e-mail messages appear to be from a real company that you know and trust. It may be a bank or Internet Service Provider (ISP) that you use quite often. The fake message asks you to confirm your records by updating your information file, in order to keep an account from closing or some other false action. The message will refer a web-link which leads to a web site which may look like the real thing, but isn't.

Unsuspecting victims enter sensitive info such as name, post address, home phone number, social security, and credit card account info, as the web site has the same look as the trusted business. That's when people are tricked into giving private info to crooks - and it's almost like having your pocket picked in the train station, or worse. Now the phisher can simply use your identity and information to apply for credit, make purchases, or any number of online activities... posing as you, of course.

These methods are particularly dastardly; the messages deceive to abuse the good-natured trust of an individual who cooperates with a request. The con artist preys on people who may not be as familiar with using online banking, or who may fail to recognize the signs that it could be a scam. Many phish e-mails use language which doesn't flow well, or a web site URL which includes all numbers instead of the words one would expect, as in '153.35.24.53' instead of 'mybank.com.' Sometimes the navigation buttons appear in strange places on the overall layout.

Beat the Scam

These Internet scammers are out there; what can you do to protect yourself? The Federal Trade Commission offers some suggestions.

If you get a message containing a warning which states that you should enter your private info to avoid closure of an account:

* don't reply or use the web link
* open another browser window
* enter the known web site address
* use your normal account login and password to enter
* make any necessary changes
* use the phone to contact the company directly with your questions

Don't transmit your private information by e-mail. Before sending your private info to a web site:

* find the image of the lock in the status area of the browser
* look to make certain the web site address shows 'https' at the beginning, which indicates security
* carefully review your bank statement when it arrives, with particular attention to any possibly false charges
* e-mails which seem suspicious can be reported directly to the Federal Trade Commission at uce@ftc.gov.

Phish Victim?

Have you sent your private into to a suspect source via e-mail? Here's a list of some important steps to go through:

* contact the relevant institutions and file a report as soon as possible
* immediately cancel the account, opening another
* review statements and make written reports of false charges found
* research the maximum amount you're liable for
* complain to the Federal Trade Commission

Through learning we can help reduce phishing and identity theft on the Internet.
About the Author
Nick Pegley is a marketing expert with All Covered: Technology Services Partner for Small Business, providing information technology consulting and IT services in 20 major U.S. metro areas. Outsource your procurement, installation and technology disposal headaches..
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