Phishing: Consumers take the bait
A classic Internet scam is ensnaring a growing number of victims, prompting groups to offer advice.
With the number of consumers falling victim to phishing attacks on the rise, there is a renewed push to get people to recognize the warning signs.
Phishing — typically emails that fool the victim into believing they're answering a request for information from a company they do business with — is one of the most common and longest running types of internet scams. Yet losses increased by more than 20% in 2012, according to the security firm RSA.
So the Consumer Federation of America and Visa Inc. are trying to bring more attention to the problem.
"There are many variations of phishing scams and new ones pop up every day," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection at the federation. "If someone suddenly appeared at your door asking for your personal information, you’d be suspicious — and rightfully so. We want people to realize that it should be no different when someone approaches you online or by phone asking for that information."
Because the attacks can be done cheaply and reach millions of people, scammers keep launching them. And consumers oblige, providing their personal and financial information — even passwords and Social Security numbers.
Giving up such information opens the gateway to identity theft, helping thieves collect enough information so that they can open credit in the victim's name or even file a phony tax return to collect a refund.
Some phishing scams have gotten more elaborate over time, in some cases utilizing bits of information already collected about the targets — appearing to be contacts from, say, the victim's actual bank and using the proper logos — making the requests appear authentic.
"Phishing scams are all too prevalent, and fraudsters are getting increasingly sophisticated at impersonating trusted organizations," said Jennifer Fischer, head of Americas payment system security for Visa. "It’s important for consumers to be aware of this popular tactic and be alert whenever they receive a request for their personal or payment information."
The CFA today issued new tips to help consumers avoid phishing scams. Here are some highlights:
- If you receive a request for information, ask yourself why such information would be needed from the alleged sender.
- Beware of requests that have a threat attached or a rapidly approaching deadline.
- Be suspicious of emails with typos and other errors and those coming from companies, such as a package delivery company, that you have no business with.
- Just because an email looks authentic doesn't mean it is.
- Don't ever click on links embedded in emails. "Think before you click." If you don't, you could end up downloading spyware that could capture your personal information.
- Phishing can come by phone, text and on social networks, too. So apply the same restraint when you are approached for information.
- Keep your virus protection and anti-spyware software up to date.
More from MSN Money:
- Bogus agencies: A model scam
- Suit settled over Skechers claim
- $1.7 million going to scam victims
- Smart Spending on the go: Get our app for Android or iPhone
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
ABOUT SMART SPENDING
LATEST BLOG POSTS
Casual dining restaurant chains have jumped on the happy hour train with deals on drinks and snacks -- maybe enough for dinner.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
BLOGS WE LIKE
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'