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Gone Phishing

  No, that’s not a typo. Although it seems to be a rapidly growing pastime, it is not an activity you would want to teach your kids.

  Phishing is a computer hacker term. It is the act of “fishing” for confidential information in order to gain access to your financial accounts. Those who “phish” send out phony emails, feed you a “line”, hope you “bite,” then “reel you in.” It is not unlike regular “fishing”: the lures are attractive, they look like the real thing, but they are deadly, and you, the “fish,” have to go for the bait in order to get hooked.

  The Internet is just like any other part of the real world, complete with a set of folks who will steal you blind if you give them half a chance. Financial institutions have done their best to protect your transactions online, but there isn’t a lot they can do if you willingly give out sensitive information. I know, you think that you are smarter than that. But “the bad guys” make it their business to outwit your normal defenses. It is called fraud, perpetrated by those who prey on the unsuspecting and uneducated. So let’s educate.

  A “phishing” scheme comes in the form of an email, disguised as having originated from an authentic, trusted source. The logo of the institution attached to the email may be a counterfeit look-a-like or merely a copy of an original, but it is designed to lure you into believing that the email is legitimate and trustworthy. The subject and content of the email is varied, but its purpose is to get you to click on a link within the email that takes you to a fraudulent website where you are asked to login with your id, password, credit card, banking information or the like. At this point, you have voluntarily supplied the scam artists with all they need to create unauthorized transactions against your accounts.

  Some of the common “phishing” emails pretend to originate from eBay, PayPal, Citibank or USBank. They may ask you to “verify your account”, warn you of “potential account misuse”, or thank you for “your recent purchase.” A more recent scheme provided a link to a website to make a political contribution to your Presidential candidate, which, of course, had no real affiliation with the candidate whatsoever. Professional hackers are out for profit. The forms of scams they concoct will vary with the times. You just have to be vigilant.

  So how do you protect yourself?

 NEVER supply personal and/or financial information in response to an email request no matter how urgent it may seem.

NEVER trust that a link provided in an email will take you to a legitimate site. You probably won’t be able to tell the difference between the imposter and the real deal.

DO visit your financial sites by typing their web address in the address bar, or bookmark the site on your computer

NEVER use the same password for all your accounts.

DO install and update virus scan software, firewall software, operating system and browser patches.

  If you are concerned that the email you receive may in fact be legitimate, contact the institution direct, either by phone or by visiting the site, typing the web address directly into the address bar yourself.

  Report potential email scams back to the institution it claims to be originating from.  Many have procedures in place for dealing with “phishing” or what they call “spoof” emails. Providing a forwarded copy of the email gives information to help shut down the offender. If you suspect you have received a fraudulent email, do not change or retype the subject line, forward it, unaltered, then delete it from your mailbox. You can also make a report to Federal Trade Commission, Internet Fraud Complaint Center, or the Anti-Phishing Work Group, comprised of a membership of Fortune 500 companies and major financial institutions.

  Take the necessary precautions as suggested and you won’t be the victim of a “phishing” expedition.

Reach Melody at [email protected]

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Melody Martz

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technology, phishing

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