How Your Passwords and Credit Card Info Can Be Easily Stolen Online
Protect Yourself Online From Phishing
This article is all about protecting yourself online. We shall look at how very important things like your usernames, passwords and even your credit card information and several other confidential information about you can be easily stolen online and used against you.
Phishing is the name given to the method used by very clever and cunning online fraudsters to acquire very sensitive information like passwords and credit card details from unsuspecting people. The fraudsters involved in these activities are called 'phishers'.
These cunning phishers usually carry out their activities via e-mail or instant messaging. They send the unsuspecting person an email with links to a fake website whose appearance is extremely identical to the original and legitimate one. The unsuspecting victims visit the fake website, thinking it is the original one and go ahead to enter their sensitive information which is quickly harvested by the phishers.
For example, a phisher might pose as a staff member or employee of Facebook, and in their fake capacity as a staff of Facebook, they send their potential victim an email or instant message. In the messages they usually make their victims to reveal their passwords by cleverly using techniques such as “please verify your password” and “enter your username and password to verify your account”. Once the unsuspecting victim enters their username and password in order to confirm or verify their account, this sensitive information goes straight to the phisher’s computer, giving him complete and unlimited access to the victim’s account which will now be used for fraudulent purposes.
One of the first and major phishing attacks happened to AOL several years ago where phishers stole a lot of AOL account passwords and usernames by simply sending innocent users messages requesting their passwords and billing information ‘for administrative purposes’ of course. A great deal of AOL users unfortunately fell victims to this scheme and lost their accounts. The unscrupulous phishers, on the other hand, made fortunes from the misfortunes of their victims.
This happened several years ago, and today phishers are becoming even more sophisticated than they used to be. They are growing fast like weeds and can be found in abundance online employing very clever tricks to deceive and dupe innocent people.
What are the phishers doing today?
Today, phishers resort to sending millions of bogus emails and messages indiscriminately of a targeted site in the expectation that some of these fraudulent messages would be received and viewed by members of the targeted site. So if you want to keep yourself safe online, then you ought to open your eyes wide. When I say wide, I really mean wide enough so you can easily detect the activities of these unscrupulous people.
Social networking sites have also of course had their fair share of phishing attacks – as a matter of fact social networking sites are seen as more lucrative ventures for most phishers than any other websites. The number one reason why these sites have become a hotspot for phishers is because the personal details of members can be easily harvested and used for identity theft. MySpace, for example is one of the many big social networking sites to have suffered from phishing attacks several years ago. Brilliantly programmed computer worms took over several crucial pages of the social networking site and redirected users to websites specially designed to steal their usernames and passwords.
According to studies by computer experts, phishings targeting social networking sites are now on the increase. So if I were you, I'd be really careful how I use these social networking sites.
Facebook, which is the biggest social networking site as of today, has also seen and is still seeing some of its members becoming victims of these organized phishing attacks. As a result of this, a lot of Facebookers are unknowingly exposing their personal details and losing their accounts. Though the company is trying really hard to prevent it, there isn’t much you can do in some cases. I told you earlier that phishers are becoming more sophisticated than ever.
Another quite common way phishers use to steal login details of their victims is called Evil Twins, which is a phishing technique that is extremely cunning – so cunning it is very difficult to notice it. What the phishers do here is they create a fake wireless network, giving potential victims the impression it is a legitimate public wireless network like the ones found in coffee shops, hotels etc. When the unsuspecting person accesses this fake network and gets online, phishers now capture whatever activity the victim does online including such vital information as passwords, usernames and credit card information, etc. This is one of the most deceptive phishing methods used today.
How to protect yourself online
But in as much as phishing techniques are growing even stronger and more cunning these days, there are also very effective ways to combat phishers and protect your valuable and sensitive information that you enter online.
You can protect yourself from being a victim of phishing just by doing a simple thing like merely being very cautious when online. Whenever you are contacted by email with regard to any of your numerous accounts online that need to be ‘verified’, you have to check thoroughly if the email is a legitimate one and actually from the said website. For instance, most legitimate companies and websites sending emails out to their users would address them by their username and not for example in this manner: “Dear Facebook User”. So the moment you see a phrase like that in your email, instantly delete it or ignore it as it is not coming from Facebook.
You can also save yourself from phishing attacks by employing this method: for example when you receive a message from a social networking site or any other site you belong to and you are not hundred percent sure it is from the said company or website, then you can simply take the precaution of contacting the website from which the email is said to have come from to find out how legitimate the email you received is. When doing so, it is imperative to remember not to trust and click on the address link provided in the email to reach the website but rather open a fresh page and type in the address of the website yourself.
The bottom line is that you be very alert and cautious online. Things shouldn’t be taken for granted online, for doing so might just make you the next victim of these unscrupulous phishers.
Remember there are several ways to combat these phishers out there and stay safe online. In my subsequent articles I would write more on several other simple and yet very effective methods you can use to protect yourself online.
NOTE: Never take your online security for granted. Never leave your online security to chance. Doing so is like going to bed without locking your doors. The online world is as dangerous as the real world.