to Help Avoid Phishing Scams
1. Be suspicious of any e-mail or other message containing an urgent
request for your personal information.
Phishing scams typically include upsetting or exciting (but false)
statements to encourage victims to act immediately. They typically ask for
information like screen names or other usernames and passwords, credit
card numbers, Social Security numbers and more.
2. Even if you think a request for information may be legitimate, don't
click the links in the e-mail to visit a Web site.
Sometimes links can be disguised to look like they're taking you to a real
site, when they're actually taking you to a scam site. Instead of clicking
a link, type the Web site's address by hand to ensure that you go to the
company or organization's real site.
If the request for information is coming from a company or organization
with whom you have a relationship, call them directly to confirm whether
they actually need the information and, if so, whether you can provide it
over the telephone.
3. Be extremely careful if you share personal or financial information
Never provide sensitive information via e-mail or instant message.
Providing this information via Web site is acceptable only if you are
certain that the site is legitimate, and the site is secured (see below
for additional info).
4. If you submit information to a Web site, make sure the site is secure.
Look for the "lock" icon on the status bar at the bottom of your
browser window. The lock icon typically appears in the lower right-hand
corner of the browser window. In addition, check the beginning of the URL
or Web address - if it starts with "https://,"
rather than just "http://," you're on a secure server.
5. Review credit card and other account statements regularly.
If you see anything suspicious, contact your banks and all your credit
card issuers immediately. If your statement is late by more than two or
three days, call your credit card company or bank to confirm your billing
address and account balances.
6. Keep your operating system and Web browser up to date.
To update your Windows® operating system and your Internet Explorer®
browser, go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com.
the instructions there to check for updates, then download and install any
7. Install and run anti-virus software and update it frequently.
No matter which anti-virus program you use, make sure you keep it
up-to-date, or it will provide less and less protection over time.
Instructions for updating your software should be included in your
program's manual or help area. You can also check the program
manufacturer's Web site for instructions.
8. Run Spyware Protection software regularly.
Programs such as Spybot
Search and Destroy and SpywareBlaster
will help get and keep you free of spyware. And they're free,
too! For more info and software, check here.
9. Run firewall software on your computer.
A firewall is your computer's first line of defense against harmful
attacks from the Internet. If you have a broadband connection, use
firewall software to hide your computer from hackers and help protect it
from destructive computer trojans and worms. One
of the best firewalls you can get has a free version -- get
Zone Alarm here.
Report any phishing scams you receive to the following organizations.
Report e-mail phishing scams to AOL by clicking the "Report
Spam" button at the bottom of the AOL mailbox or use the Report Spam
icon at the right when you are reading the message.
Forward the scam e-mail to the company featured in the e-mail if it is a
Forward the entire e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.