Phishing Emails – Make Sure That You Don’t Get Caught
The internet has elevated junk mail to an art form. There are email bots being developed constantly, grabbing addresses from public lists, internet pages, anywhere that it might appear online. And they bombard your inbox with promises of male enhancement, and free merchandise, shopping sprees, and at least one highly lucrative offer per week from the Prince of Nigeria. So how can you tell how much is crap and what you should actually be paying attention to? It’s not an easy task, and so here to help is the Modern Nerd.
Get a Filter. A GOOD Filter.
The first line of defense in any inbox is your spam filter. There is a constant battle being fought between the advertisers and the hosting companies to keep the crap out of peoples’ mail. Yahoo, Gmail, institutions and companies alike all have spam filters. When something manages to slip through that you have no clue about, mark it as spam. The algorithms in the filters will get better over time and block the address, and addresses like it. Simply deleting the erroneous message will not be good enough to keep it from happening again.
What is Phishing?
Phishing is the most dangerous kind of spam email. It comes from a site that appears to be legitimate, claiming that you need to take some kind of action. It could be a bank, or a site where you have an account, or a common retailer. In all cases, the site is bogus and very much malicious. If you enter any personal information, it could be used against you in an attempt to steal your identity or your money.
There are several ways that you can spot fakes. In most cases, there are subtle cues. The URL may not look right. When deciding to click on a link, hover your mouse over it. If the URL that appears in the status bar in the lower left corner of your screen is the same as the URL that is being linked, it might be OK. If you asked for a link to reset a password, or change an email address, then you’ll probably be ok. If something suspicious just appeared, then it’s better to ignore it. All of the scams require your personal information to get anywhere. If you ignore it, then there is no risk, and if it is legitimately a problem, reputable companies will contact you through other means than just email.
Look at the example above. Can you spot the giveaways that it is bogus?
Also, almost without fail, these fake links and malicious websites will include spelling errors, logos that are not quite right, or wording that looks like it was written by someone who doesn’t exactly speak English. Instincts are there for a reason, just because we use a keyboard and mouse instead of a sword and a shield on a daily basis doesn’t make them any less valid. Trust your gut, if it doesn’t look right, or if it’s too good to be true, then you’re probably right.
High Risk Internet Behavior
My generation has been raised with the computer as a way of life. It has become ingrained in us how to tell if something is legitimate just by looking at it. But there are sites online that increase your chance of getting emails that may be after something more than just your business. If you give out your name, address, email address, or *gulp* numbers (credit card, SSN) to sites that promise free adult videos, dating, free iPhones, male enhancement, or the like, then you are going to get screwed over. Don’t do it. Ever.
If you do, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Keep your Skepticism
Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it legit. Please look twice at everything you do, and remember than there are people without morals. When something doesn’t smell right, metaphorically speaking, then it isn’t. Don’t take chances, because the paperwork and damage control that you will have to do should something go wrong is astronomical.
Thanks for reading. Remember that forewarned is forearmed. Please subscribe to our facebook page or RSS feed to get all of the updates from the Computer Fixer and the Modern Nerd, every week on our blog. Thanks go out to Wikipedia for the use of the example phishing email. Take care.