In Wikipedia Phishing is defined as:
the criminally fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.”
Recently I was phished for the first time. The picture attached is of my AOL account that I use solely for family and personal communication. When I first saw the e-mail listing from BofA I really didn’t think much about it. Then when I opened the e-mail and read the first line I knew something was wrong. As a victim of ID theft my first thoughts were “here we go again!” but then I happened to notice one odd thing.
Do you see it? Take a close look at the BofA email address. Do you see Bank0OfAmerica? The scammers used a zero in place of the o in of.
What would you do if you identified an attempt to Phish you? We could take the path of least resistance, delete the email and go on with our life. We could assume that another person smart enough to identify it will report it to the bank or authorities. If we all take that attitude however the burden of those that fall for these scams will fall in part on our shoulders.
Without any formal guidance my choice was to report the incident to BofA. On their contact page they had a special email address to forward these phishing attempts. I’ve not heard back and can only hope they are doing something worthwhile with the information. However, since then I’ve taken the time to do a little more research. After taking a look at these, consider the questions at the bottom of this post, can you help? Also check out a quick and fun game that will help you learn how to deal with these situations.
If you receive an attempt to phish information you should:
- Not reply to the e-mail, do not click on any links in the e-mail, and do not copy and paste any links into your browser
- Forward the e-mail to the bank or institution that is being targeted
- Forward the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (this was provided by the Federal Trade Commission)
- Forward the e-mail to the Anti Phishing Working Group @ email@example.com
- Delete the email from your inbox
Furthermore to protect yourself from phishing in the future the Federal Trade Commission recommends you follow the advice listed here:
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don’t click on the link in the message, either. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct Web address yourself. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser – phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different site.
- Area codes can mislead. Some scammers send emails that appear to be from a legitimate business and ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund.” Because they use Voice over Internet Protocol technology, the area code you call does not reflect where the scammers really are. If you need to reach an organization you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card. And delete any emails that ask you to confirm or divulge your financial information.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.
Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognizes current viruses as well as older ones; that can effectively reverse the damage; and that updates automatically.A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorized sources. It’s especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Operating systems (like Windows or Linux) or browsers (like Internet Explorer or Netscape) also may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
Don’t email personal or financial information. Email is not a secure method of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some phishers have forged security icons.
Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges. If your statement is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.
- If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website at ftc.gov/idtheft. Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft. While you can’t entirely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit reporting companies. See www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering a free annual credit report.
Now for the fun…
Have you ever been phished? Did you fall for it? As the saying goes the best defense is a good offense. Offense is not an option without knowledge. For those that have not experienced phishing or ID theft would you please share your story below in the comments section so others can learn?
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