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Internet Thieves Are Phishing -- Don't Get Caught

Margaret Chiffriller -- The sharks are circling and they have their eyes on you! Thieves who go phishing for you are sneaky and unscrupulous... but they are very, very good at what they do.

How does a phishing scam work? Here's one example:

You open an email message from your bank requesting that you update your information for their computer records. The email looks legitimate, the bank's logo and information is all there. You click on the link in the email and it opens a page that you recognize as your bank's Web site. You enter your user name and password and complete the submission by entering the information that the bank wants to verify. When you close the site it gives you the normal thank you information and you are done.

You have just been caught by someone phishing!

You gave them all of the information that they need to go to your bank account and transfer your money to where ever they please.

What happened? The link in the email took you to a site designed with one purpose... to get you to believe you are somewhere safe so you will reveal secure information. The page looks exactly like your bank, your stock account, your credit card company, your PayPal account, or any site that handles secure transactions. The phony site may even have links back to the real site so you are really fooled!

If they're so good, what can you do to protect yourself? Simple. Don't click on the link in the email. If you get a message from your bank --- go to the normal log in page. If the request is genuine, there will be a link on the real site for you to follow. Financial institutions warn their customers to ALWAYS use the main log in page to transact ANY business or change any information.

Like most Internet scams, these phishing expeditions can be easily avoided if you know about them. If you do any financial transactions online, never enter the site through an email link. You can use your normal entry page with confidence that you are not giving your identity to a thief.

A bit more difficult to detect are the scam web sites that pretend to be financial sites. Some offer loans or credit cards at fantastic interest rates, others will offer to clear your credit or handle your portfolio. You need to register for the service by giving them personal information. STOP!

If it sounds like a good deal, do a search for their name and see if there are any discussions about them. You may find that others who are focused on this have identified this as a scam. Call the company and verify that they are really in business. Check before you give information to anyone.

The Internet is a good place to do business. If you shop in the mall, you have to be aware of scammers selling you designer knockoffs or bait and switch sales. If you do online financial transactions you need to watch out for the same scammers in their online versions.

Thieves have been around as long as history has been recorded. The only difference with online crooks is that they have come up with some new disguises to fool their victims.

Before you give any identifying information to someone you don't know... find out who they are and make sure that they are who they claim to be. If a stranger walked up to you on the street and promised to get you a good rate on a credit card if you just give them your wallet... would you? Think of the Web site as someone you don't know and think before you reveal anything that they may use to steal from you -- or worse -- to steal your identity.

Margaret Chiffriller, a freelance writer and former educator, edits the Chiff pop-up free directory and the local search where business sites are priced to let every business create an easy to find site:

© 2004 Margaret Chiffriller

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.