Phishers can steal your money and private information using two main methods:
- Claiming to send emails from legitimate websites but which actually contain web links that ask users to provide personal information, or
- Directing users to a fake website that at first glance may look like a legitimate website.
How to be Smarter Than a Phisher
Armed with a little key knowledge and applying some basic precautions, you can outwit the phishers. Moreover, good Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide guidelines on how to combat phishing and other online scams.
Moreover, new ways are emerging that make life considerably harder for phishers. Yahoo for example, have recently started providing personalized sign-in seals for their email users who use the main Yahoo website to view emails.
A Yahoo personalized sign-in seal is simply a unique phrase or picture that a user can upload to their account. Then, whenever a user is about to log in, they can make a quick glance to check if their particular personalized sign-in seal if present on their log-in page. If the seal is not present, then most likely the log-in page currently being viewed is not the genuine log-in page but a page that is part of a phishing scam. Using a personalized sign-in seal is certainly a good idea.
However, consider the following points:
- Setting up a personalized sign-in seal is fine providing that your computer has not already been infected with a phishing scam.
- In time, even the phishing providers may learn how to include similar sign-in seal functionality to that provided by authentic websites. Therefore ideally, to ensure you can set up your personalized sign-in seal quickly, ask your Internet Service Provider / email account provider to set up a personalized sign-in seal for you as soon as possible.
- Make sure you're taking basic security precautions to protect your identity and your computer. For example, consider the following guidelines.
- Install and use strong antivirus software.
- Make sure that your antivirus software is always turned on.
- Ensure that your antivirus software automatically downloads and installs the latest updates to your computer regularly. Norton Internet Security 2008 is one good choice.
- Install and use antispyware software that is also always turned and likewise automatically downloads and installs the latest updates to your computer regularly. For example, check out UniBlu SpyEraser
- Run manual antivirus and antispyware checks at least weekly.
- Keep full backups of your entire PC.
- Make up-to-date backups, ideally on a daily basis, certainly at least weekly and more often if possible.
- Use a broadband modem or access point hardware box that also includes a built-in hardware firewall.
- Make sure you have a strong software firewall also correctly configured and turned on. Microsoft Windows XP and Vista come with their own built-in software firewall. Also, some excellent antivirus providers like Symantec's Norton Internet Security come with their own software firewall that you can choose to use instead if you prefer.
- If you use a personalized sign-in seal, don't share the information with anyone you do not trust.
- If you take basic precautions, you need never become a victim of phishing or other online scams (see below).
You can discover more about phishing, pharming, vishing and other online terms in our free website Glossary.