According to Websters online dictionary Phishing is “a scam by which an e-mail user is duped into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly.” They often come in the form of unsolicited emails and can look very convincing.
Microsoft Takes on Internet Scams Like Phishing
Microsoft has taken the lead in establishing a website devoted to online safety and it targets phishing scams as a major concern.
The Microsoft website reports that this form of internet scam will typically “come in the form of a general request from a legitimate organization. Criminals who send these are very creative. They make contact pretending to represent Microsoft, the FBI, or a security team in order to convince you that they are legitimate.”
Microsoft’s Four Signs of a Phishing Scam or an Advance Fee Scam
The Microsoft online safety website offers four things to help identify a phishing scam. Ask these four questions after receiving an suspect Email:
-Does the email message include urgent requests, or “exciting” statements, or promises intended to get an immediate reaction?
-Has the sender asked for personal or financial information such as user names or account names, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, dates of birth, and so on?
-Does the message contain a request to transfer large sums of money in order to get a prize?
-Does the email message include one or more suspicious characteristics? (Discussed below)
Suspicious characteristics, which may be indicative of a phishing email, include:
-The “from” address may be different than the “reply to” address.
-Are there misspelled words and other typos in the message? According to Microsoft misspellings in addresses are common devices used by criminals to go undetected.
-The message contains “official looking” links to a legitimate business or governmental agency.
Notably, The Better Business Bureau of Canada recently compiled a list of the top ten of most common internet scams for 2009 and phishing was included as a major problem.
What to Do if a Phishing Scam is Suspected: Fraud Alert
Microsoft’s safety website suggests that users do not open or click on any suspected emails. Mark as “Junk” and delete. Report suspected internet activity to local law enforcement and record as much information about the sender and the message as possible. Internet users must remember that if an offer sounds too good to be true, it most often is.