Phacing the Phacts on Phishing

Nearly a quarter of PC users are targeted by monthly phishing attempts, according to a national study of online security.

Phishing is, of course, the practice of sending bogus but authentic-looking e-mails, purportedly from a trusted organization, to consumers in hopes of tricking them into revealing personal information. It’s one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world, and the survey conducted by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance indicates there’s no reason to expect that to change anytime soon.

• Phishing scams’ increasing sophistication makes them tougher to spot; 70% of recipients say they initially thought the e-mails might be legitimate.

• 74% of consumers now use the Internet for transactions deemed sensitive, such as purchases and banking – and these are exactly the types of transactions that interest identity thieves who send out phishing e-mails.

• In January 2004, there were only 198 Web sites specifically created for phishing. By September 2005, there were more than 5,200.

Off the hook

Here are the expert tips you can follow to keep your personal data safe:

• No matter how genuine an e-mail message looks, don’t respond or click on a link within it if it asks you to “update your account” or “verify your information.” In response to the phishing epidemic, legitimate businesses today never ask for this type of data over the Internet.

• Identity thieves, spammers, and phishers “harvest” e-mail addresses from Internet sites. Try not to expose your e-mail address on public Web sites.

• Many phishing Web sites are written specifically for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. Using a different browser, such as Mozilla Firefox, can foil these sites.

• Be sure to follow basic security protocol: install and frequently update software to fight viruses and spyware, and use a PC firewall.

© National Security Institute, Inc.

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