In this day and age there are numerous crooks adapting new technology to fulfill their evil designs, but fortunately there are also a number of ways to avoid becoming a victim to such scams. First, be sure to download and install spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, a firewall, and pop-up blockers; once you have these items, be sure to keep them up to date. This software should prevent many malicious messages from ever reaching you, but it is still important to know how to spot phishing schemes.
The most suspicious messages are those that: blatantly misuse grammar, have poor spelling, and use threats (i.e. freezing you bank account) to coerce you into visiting a certain site to input personal information (i.e. username/password, your name, or credit card information) that the legitimate company should already have. If you receive a message and are unsure of its validity there are numerous steps you can take. First of all, do not download any attachments or click on any links within the message. You can check to see where the link from the email would take you by placing the cursor over the link, without clicking on it, and comparing the website information that shows up to what is given in the email (also, the web addresses of most scams begin with numbers and then the legitimate looking address). Next, since most businesses usually call or send notification by mail if there is an issue with your accounts, you will probably want to call the business the message is supposedly from to inquire about the message, but do not use the number provided in the email. Once you are fairly certain that a message is a scam, you can report it by attaching it to a new email addressed to email@example.com.
Some other general guidelines for preventing phishing scams include: always typing in the addresses for websites rather than accessing them through links, checking to make sure that websites are secure before inputting personal info (this is verified by https at the beginning of the web address), never inputting personal information on pop-up windows from unverified sources, and checking your accounts regularly for unauthorized activity. These steps should protect you from phishing scams, but if you happen to fall victim to a scam, you should notify the authorities immediately. This can be done by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Clearing House website: www.consumer.gov/idtheft.
How to Avoid Phishing Scams and Identity Theft. University Computer Help Desk, 2012. Web. 30 Jan.
How to Recognize Phishing Email Messages or Links. Microsoft, 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2012
Merritt, Tom How to Avoid Phishing Scams. CNET.com, 7 Mar. 2006. Web. 30 Jan. 2012
Phishing. National Consumers League, 2011. Web. 30 Jan. 2012
At The University of North Carolina Wendy plans to actively participate in a student group, Health Focus, which will enable her to use her knowledge and love for health and nutrition to educate youth in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area. She also hopes to promote voter registration amongst her fellow students.
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