How to practice 'safe computing'
The number and sophistication of phishing and spoofing scams sent out to consumers is continuing to increase dramatically. While online banking is widely considered to be as safe or safer than in-branch or ATM banking, as a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. Below is a list of recommendations you can use to avoid becoming a victim of these scams:
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
- Phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediately
- They typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, etc.
- Phisher emails typically are not as personalized and may contain spelling errors while valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are accurate in the way they spell your name and your financial institution's name.
- Don't use the links in an email to get to any Web page, if you suspect the message might not be authentic. Instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser
- Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information
- Only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
- Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
- A secure Web server designation can be found by checking the beginning of the Web address in your browser's address bar - it should be "https://" rather than just "http://"
Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known phishing fraud websites
EarthLink ScamBlocker is just one of many free browser toolbars that alerts you before you visit a page that's on the service provider's list of known fraudulent phisher websites.
EarthLink's toolbar is free to all Internet users and can be downloaded at http://www.earthlink.net/earthlinktoolbar
- Regularly log into your online accounts
- Don't leave it for as long as a month before you check each account
- Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate; if anything is suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers
- Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied; always visit your browser's home page to download the latest security patches even if they don't alert you to do so