A Closer Look at Phishing

Phishers are constantly coming up with new online schemes to reel in potential victims. Learn more about phishing to make sure you don't fall for a scam.

Understanding Phishing

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack where cyber-criminals try to fraudulently get hold of your private information, like usernames, passwords and credit card details.

Phishers have been known to use direct messaging, e-mails, or pop-ups in order to initiate their scams; they may attempt to lead you to a counterfeit website, impersonate a well-known company and convince you to respond, or plant malware on your PC after you click a link.

Phishing scams are growing more and more sophisticated, targeting financial institutions in an attempt to get you to give up your sensitive information, resulting in identity theft and financial loss.

Staying Out of the Phishing Attacks

There is no doubt that many of us have been a victim of phishing.

You don’t have to be a computer expert to protect yourself. The best defense against these malicious attacks is very simple: Nurturing caution, trusting your judgments and using common sense at all times!

What can you do to avoid being the victim of these scams?

  • Be very cautious of emails asking for confidential information. Legitimate companies and government agencies will never ask for your password, social security number or credit card information via an email or pop up ads. If they are asking for this information you should be wary. NEVER respond to such messages.
  • Never fill out and submit confidential information via forms that are attached within e-mail messages.
  • Do not click on any suspicious links received in unsolicited email messages. If you think the message smells ‘phishy’, leave it! If you click on the link, you could be unleashing viruses or spyware on your computer. Instead, only navigate to the website by typing the URL directly on your browser’s address bar. 
  • Use ONLY trustworthy and reliable websites for online shopping and sending e-cards for your loved ones.
  • Make sure your antivirus and antispyware are up to date!
  • Always determine the legitimacy of the email and offers. Call if you have to.
  • If the email or offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

OnGuard Online  has some quick phishing tips and advice on how not to get hooked by phishers. To browse lists of past e-mail scams and fraudulent sites, check out the Anti-Phishing Working Group , an industry and law enforcement association focused on wiping out Internet fraud. If you've been scammed or know of a fraudulent site, you can also report sites and e-mails to be reviewed and added to their phishing archive.