Internet scammers casting about for people’s financial information have a new way to lure unsuspecting victims: They go "phishing."
"Phishing" is the nickname for an email scam in which the sender forges an email or pop-up message to look as if it's coming from a legitimate company or financial institution. It can contain official logos, and look just like a regular billing notice. These fraudulent emails often ask that you reply with personal or account information, “update” or “validate” your account information. Many times it will threaten some dire consequence if you don’t respond, or they may link you to a phony site that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site, but it isn’t.
Recent scams have also included attachments and contained instructions for downloading files or installing software. If you receive an email that appears to be from a bank or financial institution but looks suspicious in some way, DO NOT respond, provide information, or click on any attachments. CALL the bank or other business using a contact number from your bill, card, or statement.
The FTC, the nation’s consumer protection agency, suggests these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply or click on the link in the message. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization 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. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link in the message.
- 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 Web site, 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 determine whether there are any 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.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up to date. 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. Finally, your operating system (like Windows or Linux) may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Report suspicious activity to the FTC. If you get spam that is phishing for information, forward it to email@example.com. If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at www.ftc.gov, and then visit the Department of Justice’s Identity Theft Web site at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html to learn how to minimize your risk of damage from ID theft. Visit www.ftc.gov/spam to learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam.
One of main tools of Internet fraud is email spoofing. Email spoofing is the practice of changing the 'from' address in email so that the email looks like it came from a different person and/or place. Individuals who are sending "junk" email, Viruses, or "spam", typically want the email to appear to be from an email address that is not their own. This way the email cannot be easily traced back to the sender. It is essentially the same as putting someone else's return address on an envelope.
Email spoofing is often an attempt to trick the user into releasing sensitive information (such as passwords) or for spam.
Examples of spoofing and results of spoofing that could be an annoyance or even damaging:
- An email claiming that you sent a recipient a virus when in fact you have not sent them an email at all.
- An email claiming to be from a system administrator requesting users to change their passwords to a specified one and threatening to suspend their account if they do not.**
- An email claiming to be from a person in authority requesting users to send them a copy of a password file or other sensitive information.**
**ARTS & SCIENCES COMPUTING WILL NEVER COMMUNICATE PASSWORDS VIA EMAIL OR ASK YOU TO SEND YOUR PASSWORD THAT WAY!!
There is really no way to prevent having your email address spoofed or receiving a spoofed email. If you get a message that is outrageously insulting, asks for something highly confidential, or just plain doesn't make any sense, the safest action is to delete the email.
Remember that although your email address may have been spoofed this does not mean that the anyone has gained access to your account. If you feel someone has gained access to your account, change your password immediately.