Phishing — bait or prey?

“Phishers” send spam or pop-up messages claiming to be from a business or organization that you might deal with for example, an Internet service provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message usually says that you need to “update” or “validate” your account information. It might threaten some dire consequence if you don’t respond. The message directs you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organization’s, but isn’t. What is the purpose of the bogus site? 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. Don’t take the bait: don’t open unsolicited or unknown email messages; don’t open attachments from people you don’t know or don’t expect; and never reply to or click on links in email or pop-ups that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are directed to a website to update your information, verify that the site is legitimate by calling the company directly, using contact information from your account statements. Or open a new browser window and type the URL into the address field, watching that the actual URL of the site you visit doesn’t change and is still the one you intended to visit. Forward spam that is phishing for information to spam@uce.gov and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the phishing email. Most organizations have information on their websites about where to report problems. To ensure you’re not being victimized and to detect unauthorized purchases, use the same practices as you do in the offline world. Check your credit card bill at least every month, and consider using services that inform you if someone has requested credit in your name.

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