Sunday, March 15, 2009

Phishing For Your personal identity

Who has not received an email addressing them to visit a familiar website where they are being asked to update their personal data? The website needs you to verify or update your passwords, credit card numbers, social security number, or even your bank account number. You recognize the business name as one that you’ve conducted business with in the past. So, you click on the convenient "take me there" link and proceed to provide all the information they have requested. Unfortunately, you find out much later that the website is bogus. It was made with the sole intent to steal your personal information. You, my friend, have just been "phished".

Phishing (pronounced as fishing) is defined as the act of sending an email to a recipient falsely claiming to have an established, legitimate business. The intention of the phisher is to scam the recipient into surrendering their private information, and ultimately steal your identity.
It is not at easy as you think to spot an email phishing for information. At first glance, the email may appear like it is from a legitimate company. The "From" field of the e-mail may have the .com address of the company mentioned in the e-mail. The clickable link even appears to take you to the company's website, when in fact, it is a fake website built to replicate the legitimate site.

Many of these folks are professional criminals. They have spent a lot of time in making emails that look authentic. Users need to review all emails requesting personal information carefully. When reviewing your email remember that the "From Field" can be easily changed by the sender. While it may look like it is coming from a .com you do business with, looks can be deceiving. Also keep in mind that the phisher will go all out in trying to make their email look as legitimate as possible. They will even simulate logos or images from the official site to use in their emails. Finally, they like to include a clickable link that the recipient can follow to conveniently update their information.

A great way to check the legitimacy of the link is to point at the link with your mouse. Then, look in the bottom left hand screen of your computer. The actual website address to which you are being directed will show up for you to view. It is a very quick and easy way to check if you are being directed to a legitimate site.

Finally, follow the fortunate rule. Never, ever, click the links within the text of the e-mail, and always delete the e-mail instantly. Once you have deleted the e-mail, empty the trash box in your e-mail accounts as well. If you are truly concerned that you are missing an important notice regarding one of your accounts, then type the full URL address of the website into your browser. At least then you can be confident that you are, in fact, being addressed to the true and legitimate website.


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