Have you heard about “phishing” scams before? They’re very popular Internet scams that anyone can fall victim to. You may have heard of them but aren’t sure exactly what they’re all about. Knowledge of phishing will help you protect yourself, your personal information, your credit and your assets.
Many people have fallen for phishing scams; even the most careful person can be tricked by experienced “phishers.” In order to protect yourself from cyber-crime and identity theft, here’s what you need to know about phishing.
The Purpose of Phishing
Phishing is meant to steal your personal details, such as your Social Security Number, credit card number, bank account information, email and computer passwords, and your full name, birthday, and address. With this information, cyber-criminals can steal your identity for their own financial benefit and pretend to be you.
Phishing scams most commonly use emails to collect your personal information. Phishers impersonate respectable companies like banks, security firms, social networks, and also the government. They try to lure you into providing information under the guise that your security has somehow been compromised. They may ask for your information in order to fix the problem or confirm your identity. Whenever you get an email that asks for your personal information, or gives you a link to a website asking for your personal information, be very skeptical.
How to Spot Them
There are a few ways you can spot phishing emails, but there aren’t always such obvious signs. Spelling and grammatical errors are common. Long links that contain lots of numbers or random letters are a sign. If there is a link in the message, always hover your mouse over it to see if the destination URL exactly matches what it’s supposed to be.
Whenever you receive an email that addresses your security in any way or asks for personal information, always confirm the validity with the purported company before proceeding. Visit the official website of the company and speak with customer service before doing anything.
Attachments and Downloads
Phishing scams can also use computer viruses and malware to compromise the security of your computer and extract your personal data. Never download any software or open any attachments unless you’re expecting them or you confirm their authenticity with the supposed company.
How to Protect Yourself
To protect yourself from phishing scams, utilize Internet firewalls, email spam filters, and anti-virus software, and make sure they’re always up-to-date. These things can help automatically catch phishing emails and protect your computer even when you’re away from it.
Phishing Phone Calls
It’s important to know that phishing scams can also be done over the phone, so never give out your personal information to someone who calls you and asks for it, even if they claim to be a trusted company. Again, confirm by contacting customer service before doing anything.
If You’re a Victim
If you think you’ve fallen victim to a phishing scam, notify the companies related to the information you gave, your credit cards, and your bank. Sign up for a credit monitoring service. Also, contact the FTC’s Identity Theft Clearinghouse through Consumer.gov/IDTheft, and report the scam to law enforcement or through the National Consumer League’s Fraud Center at Fraud.org.