Be prepared for, avoid phishing scams

By now, it’s fairly safe to assume that most people have heard of phishing. Phishing is defined as the act of sending an e-mail to someone, claiming to be a legitimate business or agency, in an attempt to fool the recipient into surrendering personal or financial information. This information is most often used to commit identity fraud. Sometimes, thieves will sell the information they obtain online.

According to a recent survey, one in four Internet users have been the recipients of phishing scams, and about 70 percent were fooled by them. How do you avoid falling victim to phishing scams? Here are some tips to help you spot and avoid phishing scams.

First of all, if you receive an unsolicited e-mail, be extra cautious. If the e-mail contains a link, don’t click on it. It could contain malware. If you do open the e-mail, look for signs that it’s fake: no personalization, a sense of urgency, or a demand for your personal information, such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers of your Social Security number. If the e-mail contains a form or a link to a form, don’t fill it in.

If you do receive such an e-mail, make sure you run your anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and double check to be sure your firewall is functional. If you don’t have these things, get them as soon as possible.

Check your credit card and bank statements faithfully, to be sure there are no fraudulent or questionable entries. If you see something that raises a concern, contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately.

You should also check your credit report to be sure there is no unauthorized activity. You can get your credit report free once a year, but you may wish to access it more than that if you suspect there is a problem.

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