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“Phishing” is a high-tech internet scam where individuals receive emails from sources falsely claiming to be legitimate companies in an attempt to obtain personal and financial information. The scams usually begin with an email telling you that you urgently need to address/update a matter in one of your financial accounts. In a recent report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a trade association that includes law enforcement officials, showed huge growth in phishing scams. From November 2003 to April 2004, email attacks reported to the group jumped from 28 to 1,125 per month. It has been reported that 57 million Americans were exposed to phishing attacks last year.
Here are some tips to help avoid being a phishing victim:
- Watch carefully for high-pressure emails urging you to disclose personal financial information or to start making financial transactions at a new web site page
- Make sure you only conduct web transactions on a secure page, with “https” in the address line. The “s” means secure
- Watch for suspicious web site addresses that are not the same ones you’ve been using. If you have any doubt, close your browser, reopen it and go to the address you’ve used before
- Review statements from financial institutions carefully for any unauthorized activity
- Keep your browser and operating system software up-to-date
- Report any suspicious activity immediately
Other Phishing Fraud
PayPal and eBay phishing emails – these emails ask for account information to “verify” recent account activity, some may include legitimate looking warnings of possible fraudulent purchases
The FTC provides information on “phishing” and how it works.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns computer users about pop-up windows, phony web sites and fraudulent emails that attempt to trick you into revealing confidential personal and/or financial information. These scams usually involve a pop-up window or email link directing you to a fraudulent web site that looks legitimate. Once you’re redirected, you’re asked for personal and private financial information that is then in turn used to commit fraud.
What is a Pop-Up Window? This is generally an ad that appears in small browser windows that “pop-up” over or under the window you are viewing. Most pop-ups are simply advertisements, some may also contain “Trojan horse”* programs similar to a computer virus.
Phony Web Sites A phony, or fraudulent, web site usually resembles a legitimate financial institution or other trusted organization. These sites use an organization’s web site graphics and logos; however, they designed and set up in an attempt to steal your personal information. A common technique to tempt you to a fraudulent web site is through “spam”** email.
Here are some tips to help protect your First Financial accounts and personal information from fraudulent pop-up ads and phony web sites:
- Purchase and install pop-up blocking software on your personal computer
- Use an internet search engine, such as Google or Yahoo!, to search for the terms “adware” or “spyware”
- Avoid downloading files from unknown sources
- Research any software completely before downloading it to your personal computer
- Use the latest security software on your personal computer
- Avoid clicking on links provided in a suspicious email
- Save or “bookmark” frequently visited web sites to your list of favorites and then access these sites through your saved links
*“Trojan horse” – A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but they can be just as destructive. One of the most dangerous types of a Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto your computer.
**“Spam” – Unsolicited “junk” email sent to large numbers of people to promote products or services.
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