Usually containing some alarmist data, for example — “someone is trying to access your account”, or perhaps “we were unable to process your transactions”, they ask you to click on to a link to enter your account information. The link takes you to a very official looking site, but the nature of the information they request should really sound alarm bells. Not only do some ask for the number and sort code of your account, but some go as far as to even ask for your PIN number.

Not something you would fall for? Well according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group a staggering 5% of people do. Phishing is just the newest tactic from hoaxers and con artists wishing to take advantage of the huge reach of email and the internet. Taking a relatively small amount of time to prepare, these emails can be sent to thousands and thousands of email addresses at the click of a button. If only a small number of people respond the “Phishers” are laughing all the way to the shops.

Once you are aware of the Phishing phenomenon you should be able to easily identify a suspect email. If there really were major problems with your account, your bank would be far more likely to contact you over the phone — and would never ask for highly sensitive information.

 The golden rules are: -

  1. Never respond to suspicious emails.
  2. Do not click on the links within these emails.
  3. Delete the mail immediately, and then delete it from your trash too.
  4. If you have real concerns about the validity of the mail then call your bank directly, using the contact details you hold on file, not those within the email!
  5. These emails do not only masquerade as banks — they also could appear to come from eBay, PayPal or anyone else you may have given financial information too in the past.
  6. Ensure your anti-spam software and virus protection are fully up to date, a lot of these will identify Phishing email and prevent then from even entering your inbox.
  7. Regularly log onto your online accounts to ensure all transactions are legitimate.

Once you have followed these rules you could then report the email to the organisation which is being spoofed. In some cases the organisations will do all they can to try and track down the phishers — with a view to starting criminal proceedings against them.

Don’t let the Phishers catch you in their nets!