How to Stop Phishing Scams

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Security

Do phishing scams have you paranoid about surfing the Web? They should not, as they can be stopped, and this article will tell you how.

We previously covered the topic of phishing by giving you a basic definition of what it is.  To review, phishing is basically an instance where a potential victim is contacted, usually by email or telephone, by a party posing as a legitimate institution in order to trick the target into handing over sensitive information.

In addition to offering a basic overview of what phishing is, we also told you the different ways to detect a phishing scam.  In particular, we discussed the telltale signs that are commonly found in phishing emails.  Among these characteristics are a sense of urgency, an offer that is too good to be true, randomly generated names, poor grammar and spelling, and malicious links to infected websites.

With a basic understanding of phishing scams and how to detect them, now is the time to learn how to stop them or prevent them from creating chaos not only for your computer but also your personal life.  After all, these scams happen for a reason, and many times that reason is to pad the pockets of cybercriminals with your hard-earned money.

So, let us now take a look at how you can not only stop phishing scams but also report them to help keep them from affecting new victims.

Whether you are an expert Web surfer or a complete newbie, you will come across a phishing scam at one point or another during your online time.  Some of these scams are very crafty and well-designed, so they might catch you if you are not paying attention.  To help you out, here are tips that you can implement to your everyday surfing activities to avoid these scams.

Stay Protected

Use trusted, up-to-date antivirus software and a firewall to provide a barrier between you and cybercriminals.

Updates, Updates, Updates

Whether it is antivirus software, your browser, operating system, or applications, you need to keep everything updated.  Vendors send out patches to fix detected vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.  It may be annoying, but updating is essential to your online protection against phishing and other cybercrime.

Leverage the Power of Nifty Toolbars

Many popular browsers now offer the extended functionality of toolbars that can detect phishing sites.  The toolbars check the site you are visiting against a blacklist of known phishing sites to tell you if you are safe.

Check Site Security

Whenever you are entering in personal information, such as a password, banking information, credit card information, and the like, you want to make sure the site is properly secured so your information will not be leaked to others.  There are a few things to look for to determine this.  First, make sure that the “https” prefix is in the URL.  Second, look for a little icon of a closed lock that means your connection is encrypted.  Depending on your browser, you can click on the icon to see the site’s security details.

Manage Popups Properly

Popups are not only irritating, but they can also be dangerous.  Some come in the form of scareware that tricks you into thinking your computer is infected.  Others offer phony rewards if you fill out phishing forms with your personal information.  Use a popup blocker in your browser to keep popups at a minimum.  If one does appear, avoid clicking options like “OK” or “Cancel” as these could just lead you into a phishing scheme or infected site.  Either close out your browser or click the X in the top right corner to exit the popup.

Watch Where You Click

It may be tempting to click a lot of links when you surf the Web, but it is not a very good habit to have.  Creators of phishing and other scams know what tempts users, and they leverage this knowledge to devise schemes to get you to click links that lead to sites that try to phish your information.  Clicking links on a trusted site is fine, but clicking them on an unknown site, in email, or in instant messages could land you in trouble.  Remember to always hover over a link to see exactly where it leads you, as some links will be disguised and will actually take you to a different site than promised.

Keep Your Information to Yourself

Do you want to make sure phishing attacks never compromise your personal information?  If so, keep it to yourself, especially when wandering into unknown territory.  If you do not disclose any personal information on the internet, you do not have to worry about anyone getting their hands on it.  This goes for telephone calls as well.  You never know who is on the other end.  It is better off to call an institution directly or visit their official website and do your business from there.  Never, ever disclose information via email, instant messaging, etc.

Read Up on New Phishing Trends

As internet security companies and users out certain phishing scams, it becomes time for cybercriminals to change up their game plans.  A stale scam has less of a chance to be successful as a new one, so new scams are constantly popping up around the online community.  You can keep yourself educated on new phishing scams by doing periodic checks for news on the topic.  A simple search in Google News for the term “phishing” should bring up plenty of news articles that detail newly detected scams.  By being educated on the subject, you will be able to spot phishing scams easily and stop them from tricking you.

Perform Account Maintenance

Account maintenance means checking your online accounts periodically to look for any unusual behavior.  This mostly pertains to financial accounts (banking, credit cards, PayPal, etc.), but you should also do it for email accounts and social networking to make sure they are not compromised and being used to send out spam.  A solid maintenance practice is to change your passwords frequently to keep hackers at bay.  Do not use the same password on multiple sites, however.

Use Common Sense

Nobody is going to give you free electronics and lottery prizes just for surfing the Web.  Avoid these offers.  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Use your instincts when surfing online just as you would in the real world.

Report Phishing Scams

If you come across a phishing scam, report it and do your part to derail these scammers from affecting more victims.  Some email services allow you to mark messages as phishing scams, such as Hotmail.  You can also report phishing scams to certain websites dedicated to stopping them.  Here are two links to do so:

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team – http://www.us-cert.gov/nav/report_phishing.html

Anti-Phishing Working Group – http://www.antiphishing.org/report_phishing.html

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