Phishing For Financial Information

August 17, 2013 | Kate Horrell

Phishing attacks have increased nearly 90% in the last year, and several financial institutions are reporting a noticeable increase in phony internet communication trying to get account information from customers.  According to security firm Agari, bank customers are seven times more likely to be phished than customers of other types of companies.

Phishing, which is pronounced “fishing,” is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details (and sometimes, indirectly, money) by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.  This can take place through fake website or by direct email contact.  The contact either asks for personally identifying information, or contains a computer virus that can track your information when you log into your financial accounts.

While there are an unlimited number of ways that criminals can phish for information, popular structures include:

  • Emails that tell you that your account has been suspended or cancelled, and requesting that you provide information to reactivate your account.
  • Links that allow computer viruses into your computer.
  • Links to fake websites that look like the website of a company with which you regularly do business.

Ways to protect yourself against phishing attacks include:

  • Never provide any personal information, such as account number or PIN, to anyone on the internet unless you have initiated the contact.  If you have any reason to think that a request might be legitimate, call the company directly.
  • Always type in the website address for any company with whom you do business over the internet.
  • Keep your anti-virus and security software up-to-date.
  • Never open links in emails unless you are certain of the sender and the validity of the link.
  • Change all of your passwords if you suspect your information may have been compromised.

I reckon I receive a phishing email at least once a day.  A little caution when reading email or surfing the internet can save you from a lot of drama.

What sort of phishing schemes have you seen?  I’m always curious to hear about new and unusual ways that scammers try to get our information and our money.

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