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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Don't be caught by the phish

"Phishing." It's a trendy techie word, yes, but it's also a growing Internet plague that every family should know about and a financial scourge that involves identity theft, fraud, and in some cases personal bankruptcy. The good news is, you can pretty much avoid it by making sure everyone in your family remembers one simple rule: Never give out personal information online. In its "How to Fend Off Phishing," the Washington Post reports, "real companies almost never send email asking you to submit personal data." That means financial data like social security numbers, bank account numbers (for kids, of course, it also means personally-identifying information like gender, name, location, or favorite anything). But it's hard to believe how effectively some phishers' emails can trick smart people. They come with very real-looking bank logos and addresses (that are easily faked) and they get us right where we're vulnerable, e.g., saying our PayPal account has been charged $237, and the item we've ordered will soon be shipped. The Post has published a whole series on this, including real people's stories of phishing victimization (tricks and tactics to watch out for), "A Brief History of Phishing," and "Catch the Phish: Take the Quiz" (something to do around the PC as a family, maybe).


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