Phishing is an Increasingly Common Type of Spam
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Phishing is an increasingly common type of spam that can lead to theft of
your personal details such as credit card numbers or online banking passwords.
Find out how you can reduce your chances of being a victim of a phishing attack.
Simple steps to avoid being phished
Phishing attacks work by the scam artist sending "spoofed" emails
that appear to come from a legitimate website that you have online dealings with
such as a bank, credit card company or ISP - any site which requires users to
have a personal identity or account. The email may ask you to reply with your
account details in order to "update security" or for some other reason.
The phishing email may also direct you to a spoofed website or pop-up window
which looks exactly like the real site, but has been set up for the sole purpose
of stealing personal information. Unsuspecting people are then often fooled into
handing over credit card numbers, passwords or other details.
According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishers are able to convince
up to five per cent of recipients to respond.
How to protect yourself:
Never respond to emails that request personal financial information
Banks or e-commerce companies generally personalise emails, while phishers do
not. Phishers often include false but sensational messages ("urgent - your
account details may have been stolen") in order to get an immediate
reaction. Reputable companies don't ask their customers for passwords or account
details in an email. Even if you think the email may be legitimate, don't
respond - contact the company by phone or by visiting their website. Be cautious
about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, no matter who they
Visit banks' websites by typing the URL into the address bar
Phishers often use links within emails to direct their victims to a spoofed
site, usually to a similar address such as mybankonline.com instead of
mybank.com. When clicked on, the URL shown in the address bar may look genuine,
but there are several ways it can be faked, taking you to the spoofed site. If
you suspect an email from your bank or online company is false, do not follow
any links embedded within it.
Keep a regular check on your accounts
Regularly log into your online accounts, and check your statements. If you
see any suspicious transactions report them to your bank or credit card provider.
Check the website you are visiting is secure
Before submitting your bank details or other sensitive information there are
a couple of checks you can do to help ensure the site uses encryption to protect
your personal data:
Check the web address in the address bar. If the website you are visiting is
on a secure server it should start with "https://" ("s" for
security) rather than the usual "http://".
Also look for a lock icon on the browser's status bar. You can check the
level of encryption, expressed in bits, by hovering over the icon with your
Note that the fact that the website is using encryption doesn't necessarily
mean that the website is legitimate. It only tells you that data is being sent
in encrypted form.
Be cautious with emails and personal data
Most banks have a security page on their website with information on carrying
out safe transactions, as well as the usual advice relating to personal data:
never let anyone know your PINS or passwords, do not write them down, and do not
use the same password for all your online accounts. Avoid opening or replying to
spam emails as this will give the sender confirmation they have reached a live
address. Use common sense when reading emails. If something seems implausible or
too good to be true, then it probably is.
Keep your computer secure
Some phishing emails or other spam may contain software that can record
information on your internet activities (spyware) or open a 'backdoor' to allow
hackers access to your computer (Trojans). Installing anti-virus software and
keeping it up to date will help detect and disable malicious software, while
using anti-spam software will stop phishing emails from reaching you. It is also
important, particularly for users with a broadband connection, to install a
firewall. This will help keep the information on your computer secure while
blocking communication from unwanted sources. Make sure you keep up to date and
download the latest security patches for your browser. If you don't have any
patches installed, visit your browser's website, for example users of Internet
Explorer should go to the Microsoft website.
Always report suspicious activity
If you receive an email you suspect isn't genuine, forward it to the spoofed
organisation (many companies have a dedicated email address for reporting such
For more information about how consumers and businesses can protect
themselves against online fraud read the information published by the British
Maurice Clarke is founding owner of Spam Solution http://www.spam-solution.net
dedicated to expand its fight against spammers. Offering a wide
range of guides on email control and spam issues have led us to
become a major force in the fight against spam. If you found this
article useful please tell a friend about it and us.
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