A phishing scam is an unsolicited e-mail that is designed to look like it came from a legitimate business. The e-mails usually ask you to click on a link for information about a problem with your account or a package you have shipped or something like that. You may be asked to fill out a form with your username and password or your social security number. The scam artists will use common company names, like PayPal, and send billions of these e-mails out in the hopes of catching a few people who have accounts and getting their information.
Scams Becoming More Sophisticated
With the advances in HTML e-mail, it is easier than ever to make a phishing e-mail look legitimate. Scammers can swipe the official logo of the company they want to fake and paste it into their e-mail so that it looks like it really came from the actual company. They can even disguise their links so that when you click on a link you recognize it will take you to their fake website. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize the phishing e-mails just by looking at them.
Never Click on an E-Mail Link
The most dangerous part of any phishing e-mail is the embedded links. Never click on a link in an e-mail from a company that you do business with. The link could take you to a site that will download a virus to your computer or share your personal information without your knowledge. The safest way to handle a business e-mail is to type in the actual business website address and investigate the information that was in the e-mail through your customer service links on the secure site. If the claim is legitimate, it should be reflected in your online information at the true site.
Do Not Provide Information on Forms
Some phishing scams are bolder about stealing your information. You may be asked to fill out a form in order to solve some problem or receive some benefit. Never put personal information in an e-mail. The scammer may ask for your username or password so that they can hack into your account. They may ask for your credit card information for some fictitious problem that they are warning you about. No legitimate business will ever ask for you to provide sensitive information like this through an e-mail.
Look for Misspellings or Poor Grammar
The designs of phishing e-mails have gotten smarter, but most of the people writing the e-mails haven’t. Watch for tell-tale spelling and grammar mistakes that would have been edited out of a legitimate business letter. Scammers may use strange sentence structures or change tense in the middle of a sentence. Poor formatting can also be a giveaway. When you see a link to the company site, make sure it is the right link. If it is a company you do regular business with, it should be easy for you to look up the actual web address on your own rather than relying on the link in the e-mail.
Jessica Bosari writes for the money-saving site, Billeater.com, a site devoted to helping people lower their expenses, save money and find great bargains. Pay Billeater a visit for more money-saving tips!