How To Avoid Phishing
For more on spoofed messages & phishing visit BU’s IS&T page
*Instructions on how to report phishing
Phishing is a scam where Internet fraudsters send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal and financial information (credit card numbers, bank account information, Social Security number, passwords, or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.
This is a huge contributor to identity theft.
Avoid getting hooked
Quick Facts: E-mail users frequently lose money to bogus offers that arrive as spam in their in-box. Con artists are very cunning; they know how to make their claims seem legitimate. Some spam messages ask for your business, others invite you to a website with a detailed pitch. Either way, these tips can help you avoid spam scams:
- Learn what to look for in an email that may indicate that it is malicious. Check out this page:
- Don’t reply to email or pop-up messages that ask for personal or financial information, and don’t click on links in the message. Don’t cut and paste a link from the message into your Web browser — phishers can make links look like they go one place, but that actually send you to a different site.
- If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization using a phone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct Web address yourself.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly.
- Never share your personal or financial information.
- Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges.
- Be cautious about opening any attachments, links, or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Forward spam that is phishing for information to email@example.com and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. You also may report phishing email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.
- If you’ve been scammed, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
These kinds of messages are big flashing neon signs screaming, “phish attempt”.
“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
Typically, phishers send an e-mail or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with — for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online auction service, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s site. But it isn’t. It’s a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.
OnGuard Online suggests these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:
- If you get an e-mail or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And do not 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 mentioned in the e-mail 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 yourself. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different site.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. 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. Operating systems (like Windows or Linux) or browsers (like Internet Explorer or Netscape) also may offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.
- 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 website, 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 check for 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.
- Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.
- Forward spam that is phishing for information to email@example.com and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems. You also may report phishing email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Anti-Phishing Working Group, a consortium of ISPs, security vendors, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies, uses these reports to fight phishing.
- If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at ftc.gov, and then visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Victims of phishing can become victims of identity theft. While you can’t entirely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk. If an identity thief is opening credit accounts in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. You may catch an incident early if you order a free copy of your credit report periodically from any of the three major credit bureaus. See www.annualcreditreport.com for details on ordering a free annual credit report.
Learn other ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spam at ftc.gov/spam.