gold dollarAvoid Getting Caught In A Phishing Net

"Phishing", (pronounced "fishing") has been around for many years and involves sending an email to someone, claiming to be an established legitimate business. A phishing scam is also referred to as brand spoofing or carding.

In a these emails the scammer will ask for account details to be entered at a specific web site (the scammer provides a link) so the consumer can continue to use that specific account. If the consumer follows the link to the web site, they will be asked to update personal information, including passwords, account numbers, social security numbers etc.

The web site is NOT a legitimate one but has been set up to mirror a reputable company. However if the consumer looked at the address bar at the top of the screen they will see that the address does NOT match the link they were given.

Unfortunately, a lot of consumers do not make this simple check. The scammers send out this email to a large number of email addresses in hopes that a significant percentage will follow the link and provide them with account details such as credit card numbers. From there they have easy access to your identity and can use your credit facility.

To protect yourself from online identity theft through phishing you need to follow these steps:

1. Never click on a hyperlink within emails.

2. Unless you are 100% sure about the origin of the message, be skeptical. Never supply your username, password, account number or any confidential information via email. If a bank or credit facility wants to update your details, they will either phone or mail you.

3. If you don’t think the email is legitimate, call the banking facility and forward the email to them and then delete it. They will let you know if it is a phishing scam or not.

4. Report all suspicious activity to your ISP (Internet Service Provider), your bank and the Federal Trade Commission.

5. Use an anti SPAM filter as this will stop most phishing scams.

6. Ensure you have a good virus protection system on your computer.

7. Install a firewall which will monitor all internet traffic on your computer. A firewall can protect your computer from hackers.

8. Keep your Virus and Firewall software up-to-date to ensure you always have the latest protection facility.

9. Make sure the web sites you go to are "secure". Is there a padlock or unbroken key on the screen? Is the letter "s" in the URL, e.g. https://? If so, the site is secure and is not being intercepted by a third party, who may be involved in a phishing scam.

10. Make sure your computer does not have any Spyware on it. Spyware can be downloaded without you knowing and will track your keystrokes, enabling a hacker to get sensitive information without you knowing.

Following these steps will make you less vulnerable to a phishing scam and online identity theft. Always be alert and if you don’t trust a site or an email then check it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

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