By Raelyn Johnson
It’s hook, line, and sinker: Phishing — a new high-tech scam that deceives you into disclosing personal information that exposes you to identity theft and fraud. Like fishermen who cast their line, “phishers” do the same with phony communications, hoping to get one bite from the millions they’ve contacted (see “Online Banking,” this issue).
E-mail and pop-up messages designed to look like valid communications from companies or organizations you would normally deal with such as your bank will ask you to update or validate personal information, like a credit card number. Once you do, “phishers” then use it to commit fraud in your name.
If you come across a phishing scheme, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission or the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White-Collar Crime Center, at www.ifccfbi.gov/.
Here are some tips to keep phishers at bay:
Authenticate E-mail Messages: Never click on a link inside an e-mail, rather type it into your browser. Otherwise, call the company contacting you to verify.
Update Browser: One browser that fights the most sophisticated schemes is Firefox (www.mozilla.org), but you can make your current browser as capable by enabling it to automatically download security patches.
Install Web Browser Tool Bar: Some tool bars, like www.earth link.net/ earthlinktoolbar, protect you by alerting you before you visit a fraudulent site.
Monitor Your Accounts Monthly: Be sure to log into all accounts monthly to check statements and make sure all transactions are legitimate.