Rural Heritage Sale Barn

Protecting Against Phishing
by Pat Holscher

Not long ago the only protective programs our computers needed was against computer viruses. Today if that's all you have on your computer, you're unprotected. If you are connected to the internet, you need a good anti spyware program. Spyware is software that downloads itself onto your computer through emails and websites. It then records your data and sends it to the spy. This collecting of data serves a variety of purposes. Sometimes it records your keystrokes, sometimes it steals information. Either way, it's bad. If it hasn't already stolen the information it was seeking to start with, it makes you a target for certain kinds of scam.

Don't send any financial information to anyone who solicits it through email. We can get so used to sending credit card information to websites when we buy online that we don't think anything of sending the same information to an email request. However, sending your credit card information to an email address that came to you, rather than the other way around, is no different from somebody calling you on the phone claiming to be a store. It is, in fact, far riskier. No matter how convincing the request may be, do not send information if the request comes by way of email.

Don't Panic. A lot of phishing is done by sending official looking emails informing you something bad is going to happen. Your Ebay account is expiring. Your Paypal account is expiring. Your bank account has a change. Or, amazingly enough for this scam, somebody is trying to access your account and the person sending email needs verification from you on your account.

These emails can be difficult to resist, as they make it appear you must respond to save yourself from some evil fate. Don't do it. If you have no reason to believe your eBay account is in trouble, or your Paypal account is in dire straits, it almost certainly is not. If you have any doubt, go to the site in question and contact customer service through their email link.

If you intend to do a lot of purchasing over the 'net, get a low limit credit card. Then if your information is stolen, the damage will be limited. Use that card only for online purchases, and your exposure will be low.

When you register with an auction site don't use your email address as your ID. In the early days of the internet people commonly used their email addresses as the account ID, but the practice identifies your email account to the phisher. It also complicates sorting out the extremely rare legitimate email you might get from the vast majority of fraudulent email. If you do not use your email address as your auction ID, you can be sure any email allegedly from an auction site to your email address is false if it uses your address as your ID.

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02 June 2005