Online con artists who are savvy with technology are ones who go phishing for your information. While phishing takes different forms, the most common scenario is for someone to send fake emails to a recipient to gain access to critical information. They will often pose as a genuine enquirer, a colleague or even a client of yours.
These emails look and appear legitimate, from an actual company, but they are in truth bait, trying to lure unsuspecting individuals into providing personal details and private information that might result in identity theft.
Clicking on such an email can lead to sophisticated measures to capture your private information. These can include pop-up windows, keystroke loggers that snag passwords and account names, or even URL masks that fake actual Web addresses.
This all sounds very scary. Fortunately, you can protect yourself from phishing scams with a few good habits:
1) Use software to fight off phishing. There are security suites that identify and isolate fake Internet sites. They can also authenticate the shopping and banking websites of major companies.
2) When you see forms that are embedded within emails, never use these to submit personal data.
4) Be very suspicious of any email asking you for private information, particularly of a financial angle. A reputable business or organisation is not going to ask for personal details via email.
If you get an email like this from your bank for example, just give them a call to verify the email. Go to their official website to find their number and absolutely do not call any numbers that are sent to you in that same questionable email.
5) If an email has a link to any website, do not use it. Rather, open a new tab in your browser and type the URL in key by key.
6) Keep an eye open for generic information requests. Phishing emails are not typically personalised, whereas authentic communications from your bank or insurance are going to be obviously tailored just for you.
7) Never give in to pressure to provide anyone with private details about your life. Phishers are known to try and scare people and intimidate them, threatening things like service delays or account closures. If need be, communicate directly with a merchant to verify their requests and demands. Phishers are unlikely to have a phone number you can call.
Just a little awareness of these seven good habits and a robust security suite are all most people need to protect themselves against phishing scams. A great rule of thumb is that if you do not know immediately who an email is from, then you should not open it. Credit monitoring is a great secondary step to catch anything that falls through the cracks.
If you suspect that you are receiving phishing emails, then report them straight away and help keep yourself and other potential victims safe online.