As unfortunate as it may be, scams have become a huge part of everyday life, especially for those of us who conduct business on the internet. One of the most common scams today is known as phishing. In this article, we will analyze this fast growing crime and provide a few tips that will help you detect and prevent it.
Detecting phishing may be difficult for someone whose unfamiliar with this scam. Though it often appears genuine, it is simply another attempt by a con artist to gather valuable information from you. Rest assured that you are not the only target. These con artists will distribute thousands of emails to each and every address they find on the web. Most of the messages appear to come from banks or other financial institutions, such as a credit card company. They will typically state that you should update your account details for various reasons, often providing a link so that you may do so. On the surface, this request may sound reasonable and legitimate, especially if it's an institution with whom you do business. However, clicking that link could be the worst mistake you ever make. Instead of being taken to the online portal of your bank, you'll be redirected to a website operated by criminals looking to commit identity theft. It may even mimic the presentation of the legitimate institution, prompting you to submit your personal information.
The Business of Phishing
While these con artists are viewed as low lives with no morals, hopes of a huge payoff is what motives them to attempt this crime on a daily basis. The information they request is highly sensitive and essentially the key to your identity. An account number and password can give a phisher easy access to your funds. By providing a date of birth, your mother's maiden name or Social Security number, they can open up credit card accounts or even receive medical benefits in your name. Equipped with the right information, there is virtually no limit to the damage these criminals are able to inflict.
How To Spot A Phisher
Afer making yourself familiar with this crime, detecting phishing is fairly easy. For starters, an unsolicited email from an institution that you have no association with should immediately raise a red flag. The best advice is to not open the email at all. If you do, refrain from clicking on any links or responding with the information it requests.
On the other hand, if you do have an account with a particular company, detecting phishing becomes somewhat more challenging. This is when you want to thoroughly examine the email for signs of legitimacy. Are their any words misspelled? Does the logo look strange? Sometimes, phishers are actually inexperienced or operate out of other countries, and they give themselves away by making obvious mistakes and using poor grammar.
The best method of detecting phishing involves using better judgement. This comes with knowing that most financial institutions would not request such sensitive data through an email message, especially with the massive outbreak of phishing scams. A little caution goes a long way at protecting your assets and most important, your identity.