"Phishing"-an attempt to extract confidential information electronically from unsuspecting targets-has become big business for scam artists. Most of these hoaxes come in the form of an official-looking email from a company you use or trust. By creating authentic looking emails and websites, these criminals attempt to acquire access to your account information. Here are a few ways to avoid these types of identity theft attempts.
- Examine the email message closely. Oftentimes the scammers will slightly change the spelling of the company or the logo in such a small way most people would never recognize it. They do this to protect themselves. Be vigilant about thoroughly reading suspicious emails.
- Mouse over any links within the email body. If you use a web-based email system (like Hotmail, Yahoo, or Gmail among others), you can put your cursor over the links in the email and see where they are directing you to go. Look to the lower left corner of your browser window when your mouse is over the link. Even though the text of the link in the message may be a site you trust, you can see where clicking on the link will really send you.
- Never give out your password or other personal information when asked to by email. Almost every reputable online business will never ask for such information over the internet. If you are suspicious of an email, call the company it was supposedly sent from and see if they really did send that email to their members.
- Do not click on any links within an email. It is good practice to copy and paste the text of the link into your address bar. If you do, you will most likely be sent to a safe site instead of being switched to a site that is a scam.
- Report any known attempts to get your information that are false. A lot of email providers now have a link to report such suspicious behavior. You may also send these fake emails to http://www.antiphishing.org to be examined by experts. Reporting these hoaxes will stop them from spreading even further.