Phishing scams involve the distribution of 'spoofed' e-mail messages with return addresses, links, and branding which appear to come from banks, insurance agencies, retailers, credit card companies, and other legitimate businesses. These fraudulent messages are designed to trick the recipients into disclosing personal information authentication data such as account usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, and home addresses. Most of these e-mails look “official,” and as a result, recipients often respond to them, resulting in financial losses, identity theft, and other fraudulent activity.

Phishing is a variation on the word fishing: fishers (and phishers) set out hooks, knowing that although most of their prey won't take the bait, they just might entice some to bite. The FTC warns users to be suspicious of any official-looking e-mail message that asks for updates on personal or financial information and urges recipients to go directly to the Web site of the company to find out whether the request is legitimate. If you suspect you have been phished, forward the e-mail to or call the FTC help line, 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Tips to Avoid being hooked:
* Be skeptical of e-mail that asks for personal information
* DO NOT click on the link provided
* Access your user information only through the company’s homepage
* If a web address is spoofed it is likely to have an excessively long URL
* Contact law enforcement if you’ve been a victim
* Always report fraudulent or suspicious e-mail to your ISP

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