Staying Safe Online: Phishing scams

Learning how to recognize and avoid fraudulent emails and websites will minimize your risk of identity theft.

Last month Katherine wrote about her personal experience with the damage of fraud perpetrated over the internet. While World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) was on June 15, protecting seniors from all kinds of abuse is a year-round commitment. The following article about internet scams was first written and published by The Senior’s Choice in 2006. The information is still relevant, however, as internet scams remain a constant threat to those who are not familiar with them. ~ Comforts of Home - Care
Internet scams to steal personal information and perpetrate identity theft are at an all time high—and the senior population is especially at risk. One of the most common kinds is the Phishing scam—a type of fraud used to “fish” for personal information from online consumers, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, and account information.
The “fishing” usually takes place by e-mail. First the scam artist creates a bogus website which looks exactly like the real website of a bank, an Internet service like eBay or Hotmail, or another institution that most people trust. Then he sends you an e-mail that looks like it is from that institution.
When you receive his e-mail it will look just like it came from Citibank, Visa, eBay or another reputable corporation. It will request that you verify your account information and give you a link to click where you can do that. Sometimes the e-mail will try to scare you by saying that your account will be terminated if you don't respond immediately. The link goes to the bogus website that the scam artist has created, and the information you type in is going directly into his database. He can then use your credit cards and access other accounts that you may have given him passwords for. He may have enough information to actually commit identity theft, using your information as his own. 
The e-mail that you receive will look very official. These scammers have deceived thousands of people into believing that the e-mail and websites are legitimate. The names of just about every major bank, retailer and e-mail provider have been used in the scams. 
Phishing costs consumers and businesses billions of dollars every year.  It also causes consumers aggravation and time as they are forced to try to straighten out their financial accounts and take control of their own identities.
Don’t fall for these phishing schemes. Banks and most legitimate businesses will never ask for passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information in an e-mail. 
To ensure your safety online, follow these easy guidelines and show them to your friends and loved ones:
1. Don’t click on any link that is requesting personal information. If you want to check out the request for information, contact the company through an authentic phone number. 
2. Visit websites where you might give out personal information by typing in the URL into your address bar. Also always check to see if the exact same address is still in the address bar after you arrive at your destination. 
3. Update your Windows and Internet browser software often. Hackers often use software vulnerabilities to help them create fake websites and security locks. 
4. Routinely review your credit card and bank statements. 
5. Protect your Social Insurance number and other personal information and passwords. Avoid entering them online unless absolutely necessary.
6. Report any suspected scams to the proper authorities. 
Sandy Berger, (2006)
262 Marion Street | Winnipeg, Manitoba R2H 0T7 CA
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