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How to Spot Phishing Scams

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Published on Aug 15, 2011

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Don't be fooled by seemingly legitimate emails or text messages! They could be attempts to steal your identity, known as "phishing" scams. Here are the warning signs.


Step 1: Be suspicious
Ignore any email or text message that asks you to reveal sensitive information, like bank account numbers, a password, or your social security number. A legitimate company already has this information and wouldn't ask you to update it or verify it via email.

Step 2: Be leery of links and phone numbers
Don't click on any links within an email; it may lead you to a bogus website that looks like the real thing. If you want to check an account, open a new browser session and type in the URL of the company yourself, or use a bookmark you created. Do not cut and paste the link provided. Never call a phone number provided, either.

Tip
Place your mouse cursor over any link embedded in a message that you think is suspicious; if you see an address that bears no relation to the organization that's supposedly contacting you, you've caught a phish.

Step 3: Don't be pressured
Don't be intimidated by messages warning you of dire consequences if you don't provide the requested information. Such scare tactics are the hallmarks of phishing scams.

Tip
"Verify Your Account" and "If You Don't Respond Within 24 Hours Your Account Will Be Closed" are classic phishing come-ons.

Step 4: Read carefully
Read web addresses carefully. Cybercriminals often use misspellings of company names to fool people, a practice known as "typosquatting" or "cybersquatting."

Step 5: Don't get speared
Never assume an email is legitimate just because it appears to be from a firm you do business with. Cyber thieves often target a company's customers, a practice known as "spear phishing."

Step 6: Report phishing immediately
If you think you may have been tricked into giving your personal financial information to a phisher, contact your bank and credit card company immediately. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at "ftc.gov":http://ftc.gov/.

Did You Know?
Mobile users are 3 times more likely to fall for phishing scams than PC users, according to one study.

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