This week I had the unfortunate job of helping a client of mine change email addresses and passwords. Not that the change itself was unfortunate, it was the reason for the change. Earlier in the week, she fell prey to an Internet scam known as ‘phishing’.
Phishing starts in our email box. The email looks and almost sounds completely official and usually claims to represent a large company like AOL, Earthlink, Citibank, eBay, etc. Even the company’s logo and maybe an address or telephone number will appear in the email as well. The email states that either the company has had a catastrophic computer melt down and needs to rebuild their customer information database OR it says that for your security you need to react.
The reaction needed is you clicking on a link that takes you to an, again, sort of official looking web site where a form is displayed asking you to enter your name, address, phone number, credit card number and expiration, and in some cases user names and passwords. Once a person submits the form, they can run amuck with your credit.
That’s what the scam looks like. Here’s how to avoid it:
* Remember that financial institutions and computer companies will NEVER ask you to divulge personal information like this via an email.
* Like email hoaxes (see the Tips Archive), if this type of an email generates an emotional reaction, it is most likely fake.
* Take a close look at the sender’s address and the grammar/spelling of the note itself…you will usually find some inconsistencies.
* IF you do click to a site like this, remember to study the address bar at the top of your screen, you will notice that it either contains only numbers or is not a standard web site like citibank.com
* Question everything and make a call to your institution before acting.
The Internet, like the real world, contains its fair share of sharks….keep an eye out for the fins.