Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Not to Get Hooked by a ‘Phishing’ Scam

“We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account.
To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”

“During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”

Have you received email with a similar message? It’s a scam called “phishing” — and it involves Internet fraudsters who send spam or pop-up messages to lure personal information (credit card numbers, bank account information, identity card number, passwords or other sensitive information) from unsuspecting victims.

According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Americans’ consumer protection agency, phishers send an email or pop-up message that claims to be from a business or organization that you may deal with – for example, an Internet Service Provider (ISP), bank, online payment service, or even a government agency. The message may ask you to “update”, “validate”, or “confirm” your account information. Some phishing emails threaten a dire consequence if you don’t respond. The messages direct you to a website that looks just like a legitimate organisation’s site. But it is not so. It is a bogus site whose sole purpose is to trick you into divulging your personal information so the operators can steal your identity and run up bills or commit crimes in your name.

The US FTC suggest these tips to help you avoid getting hooked by a phishing scam:

1. If you get an email or pop-up messages that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply and don’t click on the link in the message either.
Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organisation mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company’s correct web address yourself. In any case, don’t cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser- phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but actually send you to a different site. Do check the web address even if you clicked on the link given in the message as they usually are different from the actual web address.

2. Area codes can mislead.
Some scammers send an email that appears to be from a legitimate business and ask you to call a phone number to update your account or access a “refund”. Since they use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, the are code you call does not reflect where the scammers really are. If you need to reach an organisation that you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card. In any case, delete any random emails that ask you to confirm or divulge your financial information.

3. Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall and update them all regularly.

Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge.

Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect your from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files. Anti-virus software scans incoming communications for troublesome files. Look for anti-virus software that recognise current viruses as well as older ones; that can effectively reverses the damage and that updates automatically.

A firewall helps make you invisible on the Internet and blocks all communications from unauthorised sources. It is especially important to run a firewall if you have a broadband connection. Operating systems like Windows or Linux or browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape may also offer free software “patches” to close holes in the system that hackers or phishers could exploit.

4. Don’t email personal or financial information.

Email is not a secure way of transmitting personal information. If you initiate a transaction and want to provide your personal or financial information through an organisation’s website, look for an indicator that the site is secure like a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof as some phishers have forged security icons.

5. Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorised charges. If your statements is late by more than a couple of days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing address and account balances.

6. Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them. These files contain viruses or other software that can weaken your computer’s security.

7. Forward spam that is phishing for information to and to the company, bank or organisation impersonated in the phishing email. Most organisations have information on their websites about where to report problems.

8. If you believe you’ve been scammed, file your complaint at MyCert, NISER and Royal Malaysian Police, Commercial Crime Department. While you cannot entirely control whether you will become a victim of identity theft, you can take some steps to minimize your risk.

For more information on ways to avoid email scams and deal with deceptive spasm, you can go to this site :

Article extracted from with amendments to suit Malaysians need.

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