In order to properly spot an Internet phishing scam, you need to know what it is. When someone or some organization is phishing, they are attempting to obtain confidential information under false pretenses with the objective of stealing credit card numbers, passwords, or other personal or financial data. With this in mind, spotting an Internet scam may be extremely difficult for a novice Internet user like grandma, grandpa, or anyone who isn’t familiar with the Internet or someone who doesn’t know what may or may not be legitimate online.
When you finish reading this article, you will:
- Know how to spot and avoid phishing scams 100% of the time
- Know what to do with phishing attempts against you
- Know what to do should someone you know become a victim
Pay close attention to every word of this article; it may save you and others a lot of headache later.
Phishing scams is nothing new. If you use Google Trends, you will see that the term “phishing” and “phishing scams” can be found in news articles ever since Google started tracking them in late 2003, early 2004. You will also notice that the search trend for the term “phishing” took off in the second quarter of 2004. The search for the phrase “phishing scam” only took off in the first quarter of 2005. At the time of this writing, June 2009, there continue to be several news articles regarding the rise of phishing scams. Here are some recent ones just to give you a feel:
- Phishing Scams can Wipe Out your Bank Account (19 Jun 2009) – The lure of money can convince some people down on their luck to send in their bank account information in hopes to get free money.
- Internet Job Scams (19 Jun 2009) – Job postings online lure job seekers into providing confidential information online
- Phishing Disguised as Virus Warning(15 Jun 2009) – Users are University of Arkansas being scammed of their account information through an e-mail warning users of a virus
- E-mail Account Phishing Scam hits Penn State (08 Jun 2009) – Penn State users being scammed through an e-mail that purports to come from the Penn State helpdesk; e-mail requests users to divulge their account name and password.
It may seem that one has to have some degree of computer and Internet literacy to spot a phishing scam. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. It is extremely easy to spot these scams; all you need to remember are two simple rules.
These two rules will help ensure you have a 100% hit on your ability to spot any phishing scams.
- If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
- Any unsolicited communication (e-mail, text, social networking message, or any other forms of communication) requesting for confidential information or asking you to click a link to sign in is an attempt at phishing.
You can apply these rules against the examples below and see how easy it is to spot a scam:
- You receive an e-mail stating that there is some inheritance that is to be released to you; however, they need to receive your name, address, phone/fax, age, and occupation in order to release the funds to you.
- You receive an e-mail from Mrs. Aaisha Ali Abaul who is dying and who happens to have inherited millions of dollars. She would like to give you her millions as her last good deed; of course you will need to provide her your bank account information in order to transfer the millions
- Bank of America sends you an e-mail stating that you need to verify your account information. A login link is provided for your convenience.
- PayPal sends you and email stating that your account has been breached. They ask you to login in order to correct the problem, and they conveniently give you a link to help you do this.