Here’s another highly important rule which all internet users need to know.
NEVER CLICK ON A LINK IN ANY EMAIL SENT TO YOU.
Once you have memorised this rule, make sure you clue your family and friends in on it as well. This rule can save you serious money as well as heartache.
Why is it so important?
There’s bad people out there in the world who would like to get things from you and one way they can achieve this is by getting *you* to give them your username, login, and credit card information.
How do they do it?
They try to fool you. They send you emails from ebay, paypal, all kinds of banks, credit card companies, internet service providers (AOL has been a target for this since the early 90’s) as well as many other companies which tell you that you need to log in to do something – they might say your account has been compromised or that you need to log in to confirm your details or a truckload of other things. There’s so many variables on this that they can use, and they are working 24/7 to make their emails more believable so that more people fall for them.
What they are hoping is that you have an account with that company, and that you will panic and click on the link in the email. When you do, it takes you to a website the scammers have set up, not the actual website of the company you think sent you the email. Some of these can be so realistic that even people who *work* for that company cannot tell the difference between the real website and the fake one.
So how do I make sure I don’t fall for them?
If you follow the rule of never click on a link in your email you’ve got a very good chance of making sure you don’t fall for them. If you have an account with any company you receive an email from and you get one of these emails, type the URL of the company into your location bar yourself, and log in to the REAL website instead of their fake website.
NOTE – Just clicking on the link can install nasty software on your computer. So again, NEVER click on a link sent to your email, even if you think it is from friends or family!
What happens to the information people enter onto one of these fake sites?
Generally it is saved to a text file which is online at the website they have put up, every time someone submits information the text file is updated. From time to time, the victim support groups that I volunteer with are given text files from web hosts and legal authorities who have shut down these phishing sites and we are asked to pick through the text and warn the victims. I’ll tell you, this is a nightmare job and very time consuming. The text files are full of peoples personal information, from names, addresses, email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers.. and you would be surprised how many people get caught by this.
More on phishing and other scams can be found here – http://www.fraudwatchers.org and there is an excellent wikipedia on this topic here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing – Also google is your friend. ;)