What is Phishing?
Phishing is a scam where someone tries to get valuable information from people by sending out mass emails to every email address they can obtain. The email will appear to come from a trusted source, such as a bank or financial institution, and the message will most likely state that you need to update your information. However, the link provided in the email will NOT take you to the website of the trusted source. Instead, you will be entering your information on a website run by scammers. Many people have given their account number, password, SSN, date of birth, etc to scammers through this type of scam. The scammers in turn open credit cards in your name and steal your identity.
What is Pharming?
Pharming is very similar to phishing. Pharming involves providing you with a link that secretly directs you to a copy-cat website. Everything APPEARS legitimate because the scammer has created a website that looks like one you are used to seeing. Graphics, company logos, and links that look like a financial institution’s website can be deceiving, but keep in mind that NO FINANCIAL INSTITUTION WILL EMAIL YOU AND ASK FOR ALL OF YOUR SENSITIVE INFORMATION.
How to Protect Yourself
- Do not click on links in emails. Use a phone number or website address that you know to be legitimate.
- Before giving sensitive information, verify that there is an icon that looks like a “lock” on the web browser status bar, or verify that “https” is at the beginning of the web address. The “s” stands for “secure." Unsecure sites will only have “http” with no “s."
- Keep virus protection software and spyware software current on your computer. Any time an update is available through the software company, be sure to perform the update in order to protect you from the latest threats.
- Report suspicious activity to your financial institution and/or government agencies as soon as possible.
Since identity theft from online scams is the fastest growing crime today, you want to be sure that you have implemented the following at the very least:
- Strong Passwords – The strongest passwords have a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols and are not actual words. Acronyms are a great way to make a password memorable to you yet difficult to guess. For example: HBtM12*8 = “Happy Birthday to Me 12/8”
- Virus Protection – You should keep your computer’s anti-virus software up-to-date at all times
- Spyware – Any computer that is connected to the Internet should have anti-spyware software installed and updated regularly.