Spam, viruses, worms and Trojans cause a lot of trouble when they show up in your inbox, and are easily detected (usually) by anti-virus software. Now comes Phishing, a wolf in sheep's clothing type of attack, which does not damage anything on your PC but will go after your wallet directly.
Phishing is a form of social engineering designed to go after your personal information (banking, PIN #, etc.), and ultimately go after your hard-earned dollars. CitiBank, PayPal and most of the financial/banking institution have been hit by such attacks. A good reference site is http://www.antiphishing.org should you want to research the topic and they have very interesting statistics as well.
Here is a list of items designed to help you make sense of all this.
-Banks typically don't send e-mails to validate your contact info. This process is done through the logins screens of the institution. NEVER enter your info if requested to do so though an email.
-Check the URL (link) of the page where the email came from. If it's not anything like what you'd expect, ie "www.paypal.com" if you received an e-mail from PayPal, then you've been redirected and you're not at the right site. If it's a numeric address (like 123.456.789.123), it's always fun to look at the address itself in your browser. Once a PayPal phish e-mail was sending me to a Turkish university account.
Please report them to the place they are impersonating. All serious organizations now have a reporting system in place, and hopefully local authorities can catch the criminal. I've used PayPal's reporting system, their e-mail address is for reporting phishing schemes is email@example.com. You can also report to a general repository.
Antispam software and services usually catch these, if you don't use a good tool consider getting one as soon as possible. Use the phone and call customer service if you're not sure. Better safe than sorry!
Your privacy is very important and you should keep it very very safe. Phishing experts will try to go after your information so please be careful.
Jean Pascal Hebert is President of Socius Technologies.
He has been involved with security vendors for the past 8 years in sales, marketing, relationship management roles. Having worked at Symantec and Sybari Software, consulted for LastSpam.com and Vircom, he has developed expertise which enables vendors to maximize their potential through strategic relationships.
His new project, www.computer-secure.com, will assist beginners with their home PC security needs.
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