There has been a growing number of e-mails that attempt to gather your personal data by means of deception. This activity is known as "phishing" and has duped many people into revealing such information as addresses and even credit card numbers to criminals. Here are a few tips to help identify suspicious e-mail and prevent this from happening to you.
- Be wary of the "From" and "Reply To" addresses you see, as they can be easily forged.
- If the content of the e-mail has many misspellings or grammatical errors, it's unlikely that it came from a legitimate business. The same goes for any graphical content that seems "off." Perhaps a trademark image just isn't right, or maybe things don't line up properly. These are all warning signs.
- Never give out any personal information before validating the source requesting it. Many "phishers" will send a web form in an e-mail, or direct you to a website to enter your data. For the most part, businesses will never ask you for information this way. To protect yourself, call the business and see if the mailing is legitimate - or, check out their website to see if there is further information. Take nothing at face value.
- Never open an e-mail attachment without first knowing what it is. Make sure your antivirus software scans your e-mail. Be aware that even after you take that step, some things might still get through. Again, confirm with the business that they actually sent you the e-mail before running an unknown file on your computer.
- Also, be careful clicking on web links in an e-mail — especially if they look suspicious to start with. These links can be disguised to make it look like you are going to one website, but they really take you to another that may even place virus-like files on your computer.