Internet Scams to Watch Out For: Phishing
Phishing scams are what they sound like — fishing. But the fish is you (and your financial data), and the bait is an official-sounding request from what appears to be a financial institution or recognized website asking you to log in and verify personal information.
Phishers buy email addresses by the millions, create fake websites that look legitimate, then fire off an emails requesting the respondent to log in and update account details or credit card numbers. However, the link provided will send you to a fake website, and when you enter your details, you’ve just handed them over to the criminals.
Phishing attacks are on the rise, and in 2012, these Internet scams took victims to the tune of $1.5 billion. In one case in the U.K., a retiree was tricked into entering her online bank account details using a fake website, after which the phishers were able to empty her $1.6 million in life savings before anyone noticed.
What to do: Watch for unsolicited e-mails that sound threatening — e.g., “your account will be terminated if you don’t act immediately” — address you as “dear customer” instead of using your name, include typos (if these criminals ever hire an editor, we’ll be in big trouble), link to odd-sounding URLs or to domain names that lack “https” in the URL (they are not secure).
When in doubt, call the organization requesting your information or check their website directly (not using the link supplied in the email).