Beware the Phisher Man

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Phishing is the practice used by internet criminals of using false information to extract personal or financial information from unsuspecting computer users.

Use the following guidelines to avoid getting hooked by the scammers:

- When you receive an email message that asks for personal or financial information, delete it without clicking on any links in the messages. Do not copy/paste a link into your browser; subtle misspellings can send you where you do not want to go. If you want to verify the information, open your browser and type the URL of the company yourself (or find it with your favorite search site). Get the telephone number from the “Contact Us” section and talk to an agent of the company and report the phishing attempt.

- Do not use a telephone number supplied in any email that asks to to update your account or request a refund. Telephone numbers are no longer what they seem. Automatic forwarding systems and VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems mean you cannot tell where the destination really is. If the phishing message is about your credit card (and it’s really the same financial institution where you have your account), use the telephone number on the card. Use your bank statement to get the telephone number if it’s about your checking or saving account.

- Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and keep it up to date.

- Review your bank and credit card statements when you receive them. My wife and I check our accounts daily (not that I’m paranoid).

- Beware of attachments you don’t recognize or didn’t expect regardless of whether you recognize the sender. Infected attachments can compromise the security of your computer and harvest and deliver personal information while you’re browsing.

- Never email personal or financial information. Email is not secure.

- Learn how your browser indicates that you are using a secure connection to your bank, credit card company or online store before you enter any personal or financial information.

If you do receive a phishing email, forward it to the company that has been impersonated and also to spam@uce.gov (a part of the Federal Trade Commission).

If you got caught, file a complaint with the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

Safe surfing.