Sunday, February 21, 2010

Be Aware: Phishing Scams

Lately, I've been receiving a lot of lovely little scam e-mails in my inbox, pretending to be everyone from a Nigerian prince to a foreign lottery to Paypal.

Most of us are able to identify obvious scams. When someone claims they can give you something for nothing, it's usually a red flag. When a person claims to represent a lottery you never entered or a country you've never been to and wants you to pay them to receive a huge sum of money in return, you are wise to send that e-mail straight to the recycle bin.

But sometimes, it's not as obvious. If you get an e-mail asking for personal information like your credit card number and social security number, take the time to figure out where your e-mail really came from. It may look like a legitimate Paypal e-mail, but Paypal wouldn't ask you for that information through an e-mail. Trickier phishing scams will ask you to click a link in order to verify your Paypal account. When you do, you're taken to a website that looks exactly like paypal, asking you to log in, but if you check the location bar you will find the address doesn't match up. If you don't pay attention and just plug in your login information thinking you're logging in to paypal, you've just handed over access to your finances to whoever REALLY sent the e-mail.

In the fake Paypal e-mail I received today, I was asked to include the following information to verify my account:
My e-mail address
My Paypal password
My full name
My bank's name
My card type, number, expiration date AND verification number
My street, city, state, country, and zipcode
My mother's maiden name
My phone number
My social security number
AND my date of birth.

Needless to say, if I'd fallen for this phishing scam, I would have handed over not only access to my finances, but my entire identity. Be aware! If an e-mail is asking you to verify your account with a company or is asking you for personal information, be extremely careful. Odds are the e-mail is bogus and you are in danger of handing over precious information to some very unscrupulous individuals.

Until next time.

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