You know it can’t be good when Microsoft reveals that more than 10,000 Hotmail users may have had their private information compromised through recent Phishing scams.
Phishing is the act of illegally attempting to acquire sensitive information such as usernames and passwords by posing as an otherwise trustworthy entity through email or other electronic communication. I can’t verify for certain where the term came from, but there seems to be a consensus that it is derived from “Password Fishing”. Seems appropriate.
A Phishing attempt usually begins with an email that mentions some dire emergency that you must take care of. Recent examples are:
Your PayPal account may be closed if you don’t visit the hyperlink that is provided…
Your bank account may have been compromised and you need to enter some personal information for verification…
Chase Bank has some good examples of what some of these emails can look like. Click here to check them out.
There are many more, but in most cases there is a hyperlink that will take you to an official looking website that is really a fake site designed to resemble the site you think you are on. The Phishing scheme is to get you to enter information that they want into an online form.
You need to use the same caution online as you do in the physical world. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t talk to (or trust) strangers, and keep a low profile.
Be suspicious of any online communication that tells you that something big (good or bad) will happen if you don’t click on the supplied link and take care of it. If you’re not sure, instead of using the link that is provided, go to the site using its official address and attempt to ascertain if there is really a problem. Many times, the institution will have information about the scam on their home page.