Along with the advance of technology and a more sophisticated internet also comes new and creative ways for internet fraudsters to refine their methods of "phishing" for personal information.
"Phishing" refers to methods used by scam artists to acquire sensitive information like social security numbers, credit card information, personal banking information, usernames, and passwords.
First coined in 1996, the word "phishing" is a variant of "fishing" and refers to the act of baiting unknowing consumers into giving up their personal information.
One of the most common ways that crafty con artists bait internet users is with a phony e-mail. They send out a message mimicking a bank or credit card company that contains a request to verify a password, account number or other financial information, along with a bogus link. As the e-mail recipient responds by following the link provided, their personal information ends up in the hands of a scammer who then uses it for illegal purposes. This can result in a full-blown case of identity theft.
Fortunately, there are many ways to avoid this type of situation.
Never open a link from an e-mail. Legitimate companies do not ask for sensitive personal information by e-mail. If you suspect that there might really be a problem with your account, contact the company by phone.
Make sure you utilize and regularly update anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software in order to protect your computer. Many " phishing" e-mails contain software that tracks your online activity or cause damage to your computer.
Forward suspicious e-mails to the institution that they supposedly represent. Large organizations have more resources for effectively reporting potential scammers to the proper authorities.
Any e-mail asking you to validate or confirm sensitive information like a social security number or bank account should be regarded as suspicious. By becoming a wary internet user, you could be protecting yourself from a potential predator, and ultimately, identity theft.
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