Beware of Phishing Scams


Phishing is a form of identity theft in which a person or group of people attempts to obtain an individual’s personal information by masquerading as a legitimate business.

According to Symantec, reports of phishing not only increased in 2006, but phishers are becoming more creative and sophisticated in their attempts as well. Phishing can be accomplished not only via e-mail, but also through a telephone call, text message, instant message or on a social networking site (such as MySpace).

E-mail Phishing
Phishing e-mails or messages typically seem similar to those coming from a legitimate company, oftentimes a bank or other financial institution. They may even include a logo or image from the company’s Web site. The e-mail directs the recipient to visit a particular Web site or call a phone number, where he or she is prompted to enter personal information—such as an account number, personal identification number (PIN), username and password—in order to verify an account, reactivate an account or claim a con/ or sweepstakes prize.

The Cost of Phishing
Falling for a phishing scam can be devastating. A phisher can use the personal information obtained to access bank accounts, make fraudulent purchases or open new accounts. According to a study by Gartner, Inc., the average financial loss for a phishing victim in 2006 was $1,244, up 4.8 times from 2005. Fortunately, the study also showed that fewer people are falling victim to such scams, due in part to heightened awareness of phishing.

Dave Sill, e-mail server administrator for Socket, says to remember these key points to protect yourself against phishing scams:

  • Businesses should never ask you to submit personal information via e-mail. If they do, forward the e-mail to the business to verify its validity, or contact them via phone or in person.

  • Look for phishing characteristics. Phishing messages often contain spelling, grammatical or other errors. See examples of phishing e-mails or check a suspicious e-mail online at

  • Exercise caution when clicking links in an e-mail. Links can be masked to direct you to a different Web site than the one listed. Hold your mouse over the link and look at the bottom of your browser window to see if the links match. If not, it could be a scam. It is best to manually type all links directly into your address bar to be sure you are visiting the intended Web site.

  • Use a spam filter and antivirus software to minimize phishing e-mails. A spam filter can block many phishing e-mails from entering your inbox. Utilize an antivirus program to protect against unwanted files that could rob you of personal information.

By taking the time to learn about phishing and to protect yourself, your chances of falling victim to a costly scam will be greatly minimized.

Happy (and safe) surfing!