Phishing is the name of the scam whereby you are lured to a phony website that appears to be legitimate, however when you click on links in these phony websites, download material from these websites or provide information to these websites, you put yourself in danger of identity theft or of downloading dangerous keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the information on your computer including credit card numbers, your Social Security number, passwords and various account information. In addition, you may unwittingly have your computer taken over as a part of a botnet (for more information about botnets, check out other postings on scamicide.com or in “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age”) whereby your computer is made part of the botnet circulating scams around the world.
Recently Trend Micro issued a list of the most common websites that were the subjects of phony phishing websites during the past month. The top ten websites of which you should be particularly wary of to make sure that you are dealing with the legitimate company are: PayPal, Wells Fargo, Visa, Citibank, Bank of America, Aol, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and Mastercard. Things to look out for to avoid phishing websites are when you are directed to a website through an email that does not refer to you by name or if the email contains spelling errors or poor grammar that may indicate the email is coming from a foreign scammer (or a poorly educated American scammer). A good rule to follow is to not click on links in emails or text messages to go to a website. If you consider the email or message worth following up on, go to the website of the legitimate company by typing the URL that you know is correct into your browser.