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A Few Simple Ways to Protect Yourself from Phishing

Wikipedia defines Phishing as the act of attempting to acquire sensitive informationsuch as usernames, passwords, and credit carddetails (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communicationCommunications purporting to be from popular social web sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators are commonly used to lure unsuspecting public.”

The other day I was amazed to have almost been taken in by one of these. Normally, I am automatically suspicious, but I was expecting a refund via PayPal for an ebay item. I clicked on the link without doing some simple checks to see if the mail was legitimate. When I realized what was going on, I literally shut down the computer with the off button, not waiting for the standard shutdown process at all. That is because I was watching lines of code fly across the bottom of my browser, and I was worried it was a Cryptovirus.

So what are some easy ways to protect yourself against phishing attacks?

  1. Check the return email address. See if it is legitimate. For example, I got a message about a skype chat. When I looked at the email addy it was from skypes.com instead of skype.com. In Yahoo and Gmail, simply float your mouse pointer over the return address and it will show you the entire return address. Other forms of email may require you to check headers. You’ll need to find out how to do that from the help in your own email program.

  1. Never click a link in an email to anywhere that requires a password.

    Instead go straight to the known address of the company and check into your account directly once you arrive on the site from the browser address bar. If there really is a problem you will be able to find out from there.

This doesn’t mean that you should never check out a sale from a favorite website. Do check the email address it came from, and see if this is consistent with other sales letters you get from them. First check the address to make sure it is legitimate, and then go to it. Once there, then check the web address itself to make sure it is also legitimate. If interested in buying the item, you can copy the item number and again go to the known web address before you sign in.

Still nervous? Many websites with secure connections for shopping carts will give you a phone number to call. Sometimes I do this.

Another safety factor is to make sure your credit/debit card offers fraud protection. Banks will often call you to make certain you made the purchase.

These are a few simple ways to protect yourself from phishing attacks.

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