What are Phishing Scams?
Phishing scams are a form of Internet fraud. This high-tech scam uses spam or pop-up messages to trick users into disclosing credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number or other confidential information.
How do Phishing Scams Work?
Phishers send an e-mail or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you might deal with — for instance, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), online payment services, or bank. Often, this e-mail or pop-up window is very official looking and might even contain a corporate logo. The message usually indicates the need to "update" or "validate" your account information. It then directs you to a Web site that looks just like a legitimate organization's site, but it isn't. When you visit the Web site, it requests personal information that the operators then use to steal your identity or commit crimes in your name.
Follow these best practices to prevent getting snagged!
- Turn on your firewall and use anti-virus software. Anti-virus software and web browsers periodically offer updates, which contain security patches, so these items need to be updated regularly. Also, make sure your operating system and applications are up to date.
- Never email sensitive information. Email is not a secure method for transmitting or saving sensitive information such as passwords, financial information, social security numbers et cetera.
- Limit your web browsing to well-known and trusted websites and use encryption. Use SSL encryption (https://) for web browsing when possible. If you initiate a transaction, look for a secure SSL encryption as well as indicators that the site is secure for transmissions, such as the padlock symbol.
- Check bank and credit card statements regularly. Watch for any unauthorized charges and report it immediately.
- Be suspicious of email. Beware of email requiring immediate attention and demanding personal information or account information. Other suspicious indicators include spelling/grammatical mistakes, an overall generic tone, and an ambiguous website link.
- Do not click on direct links. Avoid clicking on direct links provided in an email. If you get an email from a known source, such as your bank or a store, then type their web address directly into your browser.
- Verify your URLs. If you are unsure of the exact destination site and have been directed to a site which appears unfamiliar to you, use a search engine to look up the company.
- Do not open attachments from unknown sources. Attachments can contain viruses that allow cyber attackers to gain control of your computer system. If they gain access to your email directory or social media networks they can send malicious emails on your behalf.
- Be cautious when using a public space. If you are using a public computer, never save items to the machine, clear your cookies and cache, and sign off before you leave. Also, if you are in a public space using Wi-Fi, limit the amount of personal information you view.
- If it seems too good to be true, it is probably an attack. Help report phishing! Open a new email message and address it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Drag and drop the phishing email from your inbox into this new email message as an attachment. If you are unable to attach the item in this manner, forward the original message to email@example.com. You will need to paste the header information into this message. For instructions on internet headers, see http://doit.missouri.edu/security/response/headers.html.
If you believe you've been a victim of a phishing scam, file a complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC's Identity Theft Web site to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft.