Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses
spam or pop-up messages to deceive you
into disclosing your credit card
numbers, bank account information,
Social Security number, passwords, or
other sensitive information.
How do I
identify a Phishing attempt?
According to the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC),
phishers send an email or pop-up
message that claims to be from a
business or organization that you deal
with � for example, your 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 Web site that looks just like a
legitimate organization�s site, but it
isn�t. 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.
How can I
protect myself from Phishing?
The FTC, the
nation�s consumer protection agency,
suggests these tips to help you avoid
getting hooked by a phishing scam:
- If you get an
email or pop-up message that asks
for personal or financial
information, do not reply or click
on the link in the message.
Legitimate companies don�t ask for
this information via email. If you
are concerned about your account,
contact the organization in the
email using a telephone number you
know to be genuine, or open a new
Internet browser session and type in
the company�s correct Web address.
In any case, don�t cut and paste the
link in the message.
- Don�t email
personal or financial information.
Email is not a secure method of
transmitting personal information.
If you initiate a transaction and
want to provide your personal or
financial information through an
organization�s Web site, look for
indicators that the site is secure,
like a lock icon on the browser�s
status bar or a URL for a website
that begins �https:� (the �s� stands
for �secure�). Unfortunately, no
indicator is foolproof; some
phishers have forged security icons.
- Review credit
card and bank account statements as
soon as you receive them to
determine whether there are any
unauthorized charges. If your
statement is late by more than a
couple of days, call your credit
card company or bank to confirm your
billing address and account
- Use anti-virus
software and keep it up to date.
Some phishing emails contain
software that can harm your computer
or track your activities on the
Internet without your knowledge.
Anti-virus software and a firewall
can protect you from inadvertently
accepting such unwanted files.
Anti-virus software scans incoming
communications for troublesome
files. Look for anti-virus software
that recognizes current viruses as
well as older ones; that can
effectively reverse the damage; and
that updates automatically.
A firewall helps make you invisible
on the Internet and blocks all
communications from unauthorized
sources. It�s especially important
to run a firewall if you have a
broadband connection. Finally, your
operating system (like Windows or
Linux) may offer free software
�patches� to close holes in the
system that hackers or phishers
- Be cautious about
opening any attachment or
downloading any files from emails
you receive, regardless of who sent
- Report suspicious
activity to the FTC. If you get spam
that is phishing for information,
forward it to
email@example.com. If you believe
you�ve been scammed, file your
www.ftc.gov, and then visit the
FTC�s Identity Theft Web site at
learn how to minimize your risk of
damage from ID theft. Visit
www.ftc.gov/spam to learn other
ways to avoid email scams and deal
with deceptive spam.
Where can I
get more information on phishing?
The FTC works for
the consumer to prevent fraudulent,
deceptive and unfair business
practices in the marketplace and to
provide information to help
consumers spot, stop, and avoid
them. To file a
complaint or to get
free information on consumer issues,
www.ftc.gov or call toll-free,
TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters
Internet, telemarketing, identity
theft, and other fraud-related
Consumer Sentinel, a secure,
online database available to
hundreds of civil and criminal law
enforcement agencies in the U.S. and