Phishing is obtaining financial or otherwise confidential information from Internet users without their consent. It’s been reported that about 45% of the online community has unknowingly submitted their login information to phishing sites.
Here are the top three types of information phishing scammers take from their victims:
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security numbers
It’s difficult to recover from a phishing scam. Usually by the time you find out your information has been compromised, it has already been used or sold online. However, there are several ways to combat these scammers and protect your information online.
How to Identify Phishing Scams & Protect Your Information
The No.1 reason people get phished is because they don’t keep their Web browsers up-to-date. Older browsers tend to have security flaws that allow scammers to sneak in.
Updating your browser will typically prevent that from happening. Google Chrome and Firefox are great to use because they always keep up with security updates automatically.
Most people believe that if a site looks nice, it’s an official site. But, many scammers build websites that mimic exactly the original website users are used to seeing.
Make sure the Web address of the webpage you are visiting matches what you’re familiar with. If the URL looks something like http://www.phishingscamsite.com/paypal/login, run away!
If you’re going to use your credit card to purchase something online, make sure the website you are on is secure. Typically, secure sites’ URLs begin with https:// and display security certificates to verify the authenticity of the site.
Email phishing is the primary way scammers obtain your information. It’s easier now than ever to spam millions of people by using email addresses that look like they come from legitimate sources.
Be careful what messages you open, not only can you become a phishing victim, you can accidently download a virus to your computer.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has five tips to help avoid a phishing scam:
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply.
- Use anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software to prevent malicious code from being run on your computer.
- Don’t email personal or financial information.
- Make sure you review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them.
- Don’t open any attachments unless you know where they are coming from.
If you happen to spot a phishing scam, I suggest you report it to the proper authorities so the scammers can be shut down. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) was created to help improve cybersecurity and stop malicious online activities.
You should report any phishing scams to their team.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to become a victim of a phishing scam. But, protecting your information can be just as easy. Making sure you know where your information is going and what information you are sending out.
As a general rule of thumb, if a site doesn’t seem authentic, it probably is not.