How to Prevent Phishing

People are told of the dangers of phishing scams, but are often left wondering precisely for what to be on notice. We'll give you the tips you need to not only put into place phishing protection, but also know what you are protecting yourself from.

Look for common phishing scams.
One of the most famous phishing scams involves criminals faking emails from eBay.com. Phishing scammers send emails alerting users that their accounts are in jeopardy of being closed, and asking them to login to a phishing scam website that resembles eBay. A lesser-known phishing scam is based on sending fake emails from real financial institutions, claiming that there is a problem with your account and that you must login to verify information.

Learn how to spot phishing scam tell-tales.
One of the easiest ways to spot a phishing scam is to check the email address and link URL. Be on the lookout for email addresses or link URLs that are similar to the institution URL, but not exact. For example, instead of an email from someone@ebay.com, you might see an email from someone@ebay-security.com. When you click a link, you might think you're going to http://www.wachovia.com, but you might end up at http://www.wachovia-online.com. These differences are often subtle, and designed to seem legitimate, so be alert.

Find out if your institution offers phishing protection.
Many financial institutions now offer phishing protection in the form of a verification process when you logon. Bank of America, for example, requires you to put your username into the main page, and then takes you to a separate customized SiteKey page that displays an image of your choice. If you don't see your image, don't enter your password.

ING Direct uses another type of phishing protection, requesting you to enter your customer ID on the main page, and then taking you to an in-browser keypad where you use your mouse to type your numeric password into the system. Some credit card providers require you to answer verification questions to login to your account. Make sure you know what phishing protection your financial institutions offer, and look for it before you enter any personal information.

Use multiple email addresses.
One great way to protect yourself from phishing scams is to use multiple email addresses. With the proliferation of free email providers, it's easy to get a second email address. Use that email address only to login to financial websites. Use a different email address to sign guestbooks, place orders at online businesses and other online activities. If you get an official looking email at your non-financial email address, you'll know it's a phishing scam.

Verify, verify, verify.
Legitimate online entities do not send you emails asking you for usernames, passwords or account information. They already have that information. In most cases, it's safe to simply ignore these emails. If you're concerned that it may be a legitimate concern, however, call to verify that the email did come from the sender listed. Do a Web search to find the main website for your organization, and call the customer service number listed on that website - not a phone number located in the email or contained link. If customer service personnel cannot verify that they sent the email, delete it.

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