What the Heck is Phishing?
Phishing is the act of obtaining personal information online by fraudulently presenting electronic communications that appear to be from trustworthy sources. The purpose of phishing is to obtain usernames, passwords, and credit card information.
Dangers Lurking Online
We are all at risk of phishing scams. I receive 6-10 emails every day that are classified as phishing, but these scams aren’t limited to email. There are phishing scams on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, file sharing sites, and links on websites.
What Does Phishing Look Like?
Unfortunately, phishing often looks legitimate. I have received emails that appear to be coming from PayPal, financial institutions, or other trusted sources. The links contained within these emails lead to sites that look very much like the real sites, when they are actually fakes. On social networking sites, I received a direct message that appeared to be from my friend that contained links to a fake site that asked for personal information. It was accompanied by a personal message telling me that my friend used this site and made money. I didn’t fall for it. I contacted my friend and found that his account had been hacked. He had to contact Facebook to have them take care of it.
Many phishing emails look legitimate. They often contain warnings that an account has been locked or is in need of immediate attention. Close examination will often reveal spelling and grammar errors because many scams are from outside of the US. If there isn’t an “https” in the web address, an indication that the server is secure, it could be a fake. I like to check out the website to see if the sender’s email address is legitimate. I also watch for generic greetings, indicating that the sender does not know who I am. I never click .exe files or download attachments from suspicious emails. I usually contact a company directly if I suspect an email is phishing. They can then investigate and tell me if it is a scam or not.
Don’t Click Indiscriminately
Be careful! Don’t click on a link unless you are absolutely sure it is from a trusted source. And NEVER give out your personal and/or credit card information unless you are confident that it is safe. While it might be convenient to click on a link, be aware that security and safety should be more important than convenience.