I got an E-MAIL the other day that said, "Someone has attempted to buy a product from you, but your shopping cart has expired. To renew it just 'click this link'." That was fine and good except for the fact that I have not been working with a shopping cart for at least ten years! Nor does my site have a shopping cart. So, I went to Google and began searching for the site that was mentioned in the e-mail. As you can probably guess, the site did not EXIST and I could not find any listing for the product.
WHAT WAS GOING ON
It's my guess they were PHISHING for my financial information -- and if I had clicked on that link, they would have been able to either drop a data miner on my machine or had me fill out a form that would have given my information to the wrong people. By moving on, I was able to 'get away'.
GIVING OUT YOUR INFORMATION
My wife received an e-mail from someone claiming to be from Amazon.com. It was a very impressive FORM that they needed filled out or "the account would be closed." It was asking for all the information that one would submit on a credit application, including such items as her Amazon login with password, social security number, date of birth, checking account information, credit cards with expiration date. Be warned that Amazon.com, eBay, Paypal, and other financial institutions, will not send you an e-mail and ASK for your information! If a change needs to be made in your account, you will be given an ALERT when you log in to their site. Period, end of that story. If someone does send you an email requesting this information, they are phishing. Protect your financial information from these predators with every bit of effort that you can.
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
It is becoming increasingly more difficult to identify FRAUDULENT emails, as spoofers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attacks. There are certain things that you should look for that are common to many spoof e-mails:
PERSONAL INFORMATION REQUESTS
One of the biggest indicators of spoof e-mail is a request for you to enter SENSITIVE personal information like a user name, password or bank account number by clicking on a link or completing an e-mail form. Don't let some phisher catch your financial data or STEAL your identity by providing them with any information.
CHECKING THE SENDER'S ADDRESS
If you receive an e-mail, you should not rely on the sender's e-mail address to CONFIRM the true ORIGIN of the e-mail. Even though it may look legitimate, the "From" field be altered easily. If you question whether or not that email is from the person it says it's from, contact them to see -- you will probably get a bounced email or confused response from the person and you will know.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE GREETING
Many spoof e-mails start with a GENERAL greeting like, "Welcome User," rather than being directed to you. When people don't contact you by NAME, that's a sure warning sign.
THREATS TO ACCOUNTS
Most spoof e-mails declare that your account is about to be CLOSED and that certain information is required to keep the account open, active or un-restricted. Again, LEGITIMATE businesses will never do this -- be wary.
You should look out for claims that a company is UPDATING its files or accounts. Companies like PayPal, eBay and other large companies with an established Internet presence and have security measures are not likely to lose account information. And if there is some reason to need to update your account, you should never click through a link in an email to do it. Go directly to the website and LOG-IN to your account -- then do any updates directly through the web.
Links that look like they CONNECT to a valid site can forged. Always open up a new browser window and manually type in the Web site address. If a real website comes up, great -- if it's a phishing scam that was trying to mine information from your computer, you will probably get an ERROR message.
Dave Owen is the webmaster of www.Scam-Information.com, providing the information you need to protect yourself from scams and schemers. You may contact him at .
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