Recent reports abound of consumers email account being phished and American and Egyptian authorities arresting dozens of people in an online fraud crackdown for phishing scams. Its time to revisit the fundamentals of how to prevent phishing. Nobody can
do this better than the Anti Phishing Work Group
Phishing is a criminal mechanism employing both social engineering and technical subterfuge to steal consumers’ personal identity data and financial account credentials. Social‐engineering schemes use spoofed e‐mails purporting to be from legitimate businesses
and agencies to lead consumers to counterfeit websites designed to trick recipients into divulging financial data such as usernames and passwords. Technical‐subterfuge schemes plant crimeware onto PCs to steal credentials directly, often using systems to intercept
consumers online account user names and passwords ‐ and to corrupt local navigational infrastructures to misdirect consumers to counterfeit websites (or authentic websites through phisher‐controlled proxies used to monitor and intercept consumers’ keystrokes).
How to Avoid Phishing Scams
The number and sophistication of phishing scams sent out to consumers is continuing to increase dramatically. While online banking and e-commerce is very safe, as a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over
the Internet. The Anti-Phishing Working Group has compiled a list of recommendations below that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
- unless the email is digitally signed, you can’t be sure it wasn’t forged or ’spoofed’
- phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediately
- they typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.
- phisher emails are typically NOT personalized, but they can be. Valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are personalized, but always call to check if you are unsure
- Don’t use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic or you don’t know the sender or user’s handle
- instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web adress in your browser
- Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information
- you should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
- Always ensure that you’re using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
- Phishers are now able to ’spoof,’ or forge BOTH the “https://” that you normally see when you’re on a secure Web server AND a legitimate-looking address. You may even see both in the link of a scam email. Again, make it a habit to enter the address of any
banking, shopping, auction, or financial transaction website yourself and not depend on displayed links.
- Phishers may also forge the yellow lock you would normally see near the bottom of your screen on a secure site. The lock has usually been considered as another indicator that you are on a ’safe’ site. The lock, when double-clicked, displays the security
certificate for the site. If you get any warnings displayed that the address of the site you have displayed does NOT match the certificate, do not continue.
- Remember not all scam sites will try to show the “https://” and/or the security lock. Get in the habit of looking at the address line, too. Were you directed to PayPal? Does the address line display something different like “http://www.gotyouscammed.com/paypal/login.htm?”
Be aware of where you are going.
- Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites. These toolbars match where you are going with lists of known phisher Web sites and will alert you.
- The newer version of Internet Explorer version 7 includes this tool bar as does FireFox version 2
- EarthLink ScamBlocker is part of a browser toolbar that is free to all Internet users – download at
- Regularly log into your online accounts
- don’t leave it for as long as a month before you check each account
- Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card satements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate
- if anything is suspicious or you don’t recognize the transaction, contact your bank and all card issuers
- Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
- Always report “phishing” or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:
- forward the email to email@example.com
- forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at
- forward the email to the “abuse” email address at the company that is being spoofed (e.g. “firstname.lastname@example.org”)
- when forwarding spoofed messages, always include the entire original email with its original header information intact
- notify The Internet Crime Complaint Center of the FBI by filing a complaint on their website:
In addition you must:1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search “credit freeze” or “security freeze” and go to
consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being
opened in your name. This makes the SSN useless to the thief.
2. Invest in Identity Theft Prevention and Protection. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what’s buzzing out there in regards to YOU.