Phishing is malicious spam designed to lure people into providing confidential personal and financial information (credit card numbers, bank account numbers, PINs, Social Security Numbers, etc.). This information is then used to empty accounts and for identity theft. Some of these messages are appear legitimate, appearing as though they are coming from banks or credit card issuers. They may ask you to "verify" account information or may ask for help in transferring large sums of money, some of which, they claim, you may keep just for helping them.
Email from your financial institution will usually use your account name not a generic salutation. NEVER use an email link to connect to your financial institution, even if it is on a legitimate email. Always enter the address directly into your browser.
- Regularly empty your computer cache, cookies, and history.
- The cache stores copies of web pages you visit, and all files associated with them, such as images, so the pages will load much faster the next time you visit. The cache also lets you view pages (minus some of their dynamic features, such as near-real-time stock quotes) while offline. However, the cache serves as a record of your Internet travels, so it should periodically be emptied. If a virus is embedded into the coding of a web page you visited, that virus will be downloaded into your cache. If you have high-speed Internet access, you may want to configure your browser not to store these files, or to empty the cache whenever you exit the browser.
- Many websites place very small files called cookies on your computer to keep track of your activities on the site. Other types of cookies may be used to track your overall web activities or to store your username and password information for a site so you do not have to enter it each time you visit the site. Most cookies are harmless but the mere presence of cookies on your PC could cause problems. Anyone who has access to your system when you're away can see not only which sites are storing cookies on your PC, but also the contents of unencrypted cookies.
- Third-party cookies present a slightly greater privacy threat. These files usually come from banner ad services, which may use them to track your browsing at sites served by the ad network and subsequently present ads that target your interests. Spyware programs often flag and remove third-party cookies, but you can set your browser to bar them completely.