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Phishing Scams and Fraudulent E-mail
Phishing is a type of deception designed to steal your valuable personal data, such as credit card numbers bank account details, other account data and passwords, or other information.
You might see a phishing scam:
• In e-mail messages, even if they appear to be from a coworker or someone you know.
• On your social networking Web site.
• On a fake Web site that accepts donations for charity.
• On Web sites that spoof your familiar sites using slightly different Web addresses, hoping you won't notice.
• In your instant message program.
• On your cell phone or other mobile device.
Often phishing scams rely on placing links in e-mail messages, on Web sites, or in instant messages that seem to come from a service that you trust, like your bank, credit card company, or social networking site.
What does a phishing scam look like?
Phishing e-mail messages take a number of forms. They might appear to come from your bank or financial institution, a company you regularly do business with or from your social networking site.
Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing in which an e-mail message might look like it comes from your employer, or from a colleague who might send an e-mail message to everyone in the company, such as the head of human resources or IT.
Phishing mail often includes official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate Web sites, and it may include convincing details about your personal information that scammers found on your social networking pages.
The main thing phishing e-mail messages have in common is that they ask for personal data, or direct you to Web sites or phone numbers to call where they ask you to provide personal data.
To make these phishing e-mail messages look even more legitimate, the scam artists may place a link in them that appears to go to the legitimate Web site, but actually takes you to a phony scam site or possibly a pop-up window that looks exactly like the official site.
Here are a few phrases to look for if you think an e-mail message is a phishing scam.
"Verify your account"
Businesses should not ask you to send passwords, login names, Social Security numbers, or other personal information through e-mail.
If you receive an e-mail message from what appears to be a legitimate company asking you to update your credit card information, do not respond: this is a phishing scam.
"You have won the lottery"
The lottery scam is a common phishing scam known as advanced fee fraud. One of the most common forms of advanced fee fraud is a message that claims that you have won a large sum of money, or that a person will pay you a large sum of money for little or no work on your part. The lottery scam often includes references to big companies, such as The National Lottery in the UK.
"If you don't respond within 48 hours, your account will be closed"
These messages convey a sense of urgency so that you'll respond immediately without thinking. A phishing e-mail message might even claim that your response is required because your account might have been compromised.
What does a phishing Web site or link look like?
Fake, copycat Web sites are also called spoofed Web sites. They are designed to look like the legitimate site, sometimes using graphics or fonts from the legitimate site. They might even have a Web address that's very similar to the legitimate site you are used to visiting.
Once you're at one of these spoofed sites, you might unwittingly send personal information to the con artists. If you enter your login name, password, or other sensitive information, a criminal could use it to steal your identity.
Here’s an example of the kind of phrase you might see in an e-mail message that directs you to a phishing Web site:
"Click the link below to gain access to your account"
HTML-formatted messages can contain links or forms that you can fill out just as you’d fill out a form on a Web site.
Phishing links that you are urged to click in e-mail messages, on Web sites, or even in instant messages may contain all or part of a real company’s name and are usually masked, meaning that the link you see does not take you to that address but somewhere different, usually an illegitimate Web site.
Con artists also use Web addresses that resemble the name of a well-known company but are slightly altered by adding, omitting, or transposing letters.
How can I protect myself from phishing scams?
Keep your operating system up to date, and install up-to-date antivirus and antispyware software.
Your first level of defense against phishing scams and other malicious humans or software is to secure your computer.
Some phishing e-mail contains malicious or unwanted software that can track your activities or simply slow your computer.