Phishing is a common yet illegal online scam where scammers send emails to people in the hopes of gaining important personal and financial information. This information can then be used to steal someone's identity, make false charges on a credit card, or empty a bank account. The emails sent by the scammers are designed to look as if they have come from a bank, credit card, or other financial institution, but are in fact fake. It is important to be able to recognize these emails to prevent phishing.
With a little effort, it is easy to prevent phishing. When you receive an email that looks as if it has come from your bank, begin by checking the email address. If it looks strange at all, delete the email immediately, and contact your bank directly if you feel the need. If the email address looks legitimate, read the email to determine what its purpose is. Many phishing scam emails will have misspelled words or odd grammatical phrasing, as many of these emails come from foreign countries.
The most important thing to remember when trying to prevent phishing is to never click on a link in an email, even if it looks legitimate. For instance, the email might be asking you to click on a link and enter your username and password, the most common phishing scam. If you click on the link and enter your credentials, the site will then turn out to be fake, and you have just given the scammer access to your account. Rather than directly clicking on any links in a suspicious email, instead, close your email and type in the web address of your bank into your browser.
Once at the bank's official website, you may then enter your username and password to see if the information was required. Another option is to call your bank or credit card company to see if they sent the email. Not only will this help you to prevent phishing, but it will alert your bank to the fact that someone is trying to illegally target their customers. Remember, most financial institutions will never ask you for personal data over email. The best way to detect and prevent phishing, however, is to use your common sense.
If an email comes from a bank at which you never opened an account, do not click the email. If you are concerned about identity theft, run a check on your credit report; this can be done yearly for free. Verify that the web address in your browser is the actual address of the bank, and not a slight misspelling, often by just a letter or two. If you believe you have been the victim of a phishing scam, immediately let your financial institution know, change your usernames and passwords, and place a fraud alert on your credit report.