Helping you balance your online life

Aug 20th


What are Phishing Email Scams?

What are phishing email scams?
A phishing email scam involves sending an email to thousands of email addresses with a message that tricks you into revealing sensitive, personal information, such as passwords, banking information, Social Security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth and more. This information is then used to steal your identity and assets or open credit card accounts in your name.
Phishing Scams are Not Safe The content in the email may warn you of danger, offer you something for free or try to entice you with sexy or nude photos or videos of famous people. No matter what the ploy is, scenarios that phishers come up with have one thing in common -- they want you to click on a link or download a file. Don't do it!

How do I spot a phishing email?
  • Check the spelling – Scammers are notorious for their lack of basic spelling and grammar skills. Look out for misspelled words and incomplete or awkwardly written sentences in the email. An email that is supposedly from a reputable and well-known organization will not misspell the name of the organization.
  • Check who signed it – An email from a legitimate business will always be signed with a person's name and contact information. If an email signs off with something vague, such as "Customer Support," be wary.
  • DOES THE EMAIL SCREAM AT YOU IN ALL CAPS? – Beware of emails that try to get your attention by using all capital letters, especially in the subject line. Using all caps has long been viewed as online shouting, which just isn't done. The authors of scam emails tend to write over-the-top and very emotional content. Also, keep an eye out for excessive use of exclamation points and dire warnings, such as "Urgent!" or "Danger!"
  • The email has an executable attachment – Never download an attachment unless you are sure it's legitimate. A favorite ploy of scammers is to send emails that look like someone you know sent it to you. Don't be fooled by the sender's name. Always verify that the attached file does not contain a virus. You can do this by running a scan or checking with the sender whether it is a legitimate email.
  • The email has a link to a website – As more people now know that they shouldn't download attachments from strangers, scammers have become smarter. Instead of attaching a file, they include a clickable link to a website, where you might be asked to provide personal information. For example, you might receive an email that appears to be from your bank offering you a very low interest rate on a mortgage or home equity loan. If you click on the link, it could ask your name, bank account number and online banking password to get onto the site. Don't ever provide this information if you have reached the site by clicking a link in an email.

A word of advice: Never, ever respond to a spam email. By doing so, you confirm that your email account is active, and you'll likely be flooded with more spam.

What do I do if I have entered my person information on a phishing link or phishing email?
If you have replied to a phishing email with your billing or other critical information, your account may be compromised. Scammers may misuse your personal information to access your accounts, make unauthorized transactions, send out fraudulent emails or engage in other illegal activities. Similarly, if you have clicked on a suspicious link, your computer may get infected with a virus, spyware or malware.

In the event that you are a victim of a phishing scam, please do the following:
• Notify your bank and/or credit union of the fraud.
• Change your password immediately.
• Report the suspicious email to your email provider.
• Scan your computer using antivirus software. Sometimes, when you click a phishing link, a virus or spyware may download onto your computer without your knowledge. To protect your computer from a virus/spyware attack, scan your computer using antivirus software.

If you think you have a virus or spyware downloaded to your computer from a phishing email, we recommend that you use antivirus software to run a virus scan. If you don't have one, check out AOL's Lifestore for antivirus software.