Phishing For Information Scams

No, I did not misspell fishing, What is phishing? It’s a type of e-mail scam used to obtain personal information such as personal passwords, Social Security and credit card numbers.

In a phishing swindle, scammers create an e-mail message and associated website that appears to come from a trusted business such as your bank, Internet service provider, or credit card company

Then, they use the information you provide to literally steal your identity – making purchases using your credit cards, opening new accounts under your name, and much more. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country and even worse, the consequences can last for years. It’s likely that you’ll be solicited for more e-mail scams in one week than you have ever been exposed to before the Internet.

My first experience occurred several years ago when I opened my e-mails and noticed that I had received an “official” message from PayPal… at least that’s how it appeared. At the time, I wasn’t overly suspicious – the logo and graphics looked authentic.

But almost immediately, I knew something was wrong. They asked me to re-enter my email address, user name and password – something a real company would never request in an unsolicited message.

However, I was curious to discover how they operated so decided to play along for a while and entered false information. Sure enough, I was correct. Once I provided the basics they asked for more – my credit card and phone numbers and address and finally, my date of birth and mother’s maiden name.

After submitting the bogus information, I received a thank-you e-mail from the bums and immediately contacted PayPal who confirmed my suspicions… and warned me never to respond to similar e-mails in the future.

So, how do the phishers do it?

First, they build a website using a company’s official name and logo. (And if you visit any of these scam sites you’ll notice that they’re usually close enough to fool almost anyone.)

Next, they pray on public fears and send you an alarming e-mail that says that unless you update your personal information, your account will be closed. Who wants to hear that? So, many fall prey and gladly comply.

So, what can you do about it?

Fortunately, quite a lot… Here’s how: 7 simple but powerful tips to help protect your assets

1. Never provide your personal information to any person or company requested in an unsolicited e-mail (or phone call, for that matter)

2. Even when you feel that a request for information is legitimate, be sure to double-check with the company before handing over anything

Ask for a name, title, department, phone number, etc. for all representatives and verify their employment via a separate phone call or e-mail.

3. Look for awkward language usage and / or typos in the e-mail phishers apparently don’t edit their letters carefully and you’ll often find mistakes

4. Review all of your bank and credit card statements carefully to ensure that the charges are legitimate

5. Install and use an Internet firewall and virus checker

This won’t stop it all, but certainly cut down on the numbers and protect you against some nasty viruses that may accompany the e-mail.

6. Keep up with the latest scams!

Visit the public service website: and subscribe to their newsletter for free. Also, check out their archives because to learn more about the types of things you may encounter.

7. Always report this type of activity to the companies you do business with, friends, family, acquaintances and other online sources

The more they’re exposed, the quicker they cease.

The bad news is that these people truly exist and they’re motives are extremely nasty. The good news is that we can all protect ourselves rather easily using a few simple safety techniques.

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Mary Eule Scarborough, an unassailable marketing expert and thought leader, helps businesses of all sizes get and keep more profitable customers. She is also:

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