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What is Phishing and How to Safeguard Against It

Every time you open an email you may be subject to a phishing attack. If you are not wary you could find yourself facing months and maybe even years of trying to recover from such a scam. Do you know what is phishing and how to safeguard yourself and your family against it?

Essentially, phishing is a criminal act where scammers, sometimes called phishers, try to get your confidential personal information in a fraudulent manner. In most cases today, this is done through a phishing email. Upon opening a phishing email, which you will believe came from an authentic source such as your bank or eBay or Paypal, you will be directed to a website to confirm or update your personal information. These emails will look real as they will have the company logo and several other officious looking facets such as authentic company names and email addresses.

Usually there will be some verbiage which indicates much urgency in clicking through on the link provided. This can be done by indicating that your account may have been compromised already and you must take action or that if you do not update your information right away, that your account will be closed or suspended. Usually being given deadlines in such emails is an indication that this is indeed a phishing email.

Within the email, you are directed to what you think is the company website by a link which may look very real. However, you may find you have been sent to an url which is a .org or .net instead of the company's actual .com url address or that it is an url that is one letter off the real domain name. There may also have been some type of redirect that sends you to a totally different url although the site you appear at may look exactly like the site you expect to see. This is why it is important to watch your browser's bars and to look for the httpS:// in the url address. I capitalized the 's' to make it stand out. That is one thing you should be looking for.

The phisher can be hoping to collect all types of different information from you, not the least of which is your username and password. With these they can get into your real accounts. Further information, that is gravy, they may try to obtain can include your full name, address, social security number, and credit card or bank numbers.

With this information, these scammers have a much easier time committing identity theft. You may find your bank account cleaned out, credit cards maxed out, new credit cards taken out in your name and even bank loans taken out in your name which you don't even learn about until they become overdue. Who knows what other fraudulent acts they can commit with your personal financial details?

So how do you safeguard against phishing and the potential resultant identity theft? First off, if the email addresses you as "Dear Customer" or some other salutation other than your name, that can be one possible clue. After all your bank or credit card company knows your name. Secondly, any email that imposes a deadline and a sense of urgency is suspect and should be treated with caution.

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