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Beware of phishing scams

Fishing is pretty basic. With a lure, usually a piece of bait, hooked onto the end of a fishing line, you can probably catch a fish or two and enjoy a well cooked meal at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there is another form of fishing on the net of a more sinister kind. Cyber scammers run phishing operations to try and steal personal data from unsuspecting net users. These scam artists use a number of techniques to get people in Minnesota to reveal their data.

According to Findlaw, phishing occurs when a party disguises their activities as legitimate inquiries by an actual business or entity. These inquiries typically show up in a person’s inbox in the form of an email. The email will usually carry a generic message that urges the user to click on a link to enter in information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers, to supposedly verify an account the user holds. Sometimes the phishing scam can take the form of a pop up ad that links to an apparently legitimate website.

The telltale sign of a phishing scam is usually the request itself. Phishing requests will usually say that you must verify your account’s information. Such information may include your Social Security number, bank account information, your birth date, or a password. However, legitimate companies never request this kind of information through an email. Financial institutions especially will not ask for your financial data in this manner.

Securitymetrics.com lists some additional ways to sniff out phishing emails. For one thing, a phishing email may not address you by your actual name, but will instead say “Dear Customer.” A legit company would use your real name and probably ask to speak directly to you via phone. Some phishing emails also contain poor spelling. And if you hover your mouse over an email address, you may find the email domain does not match the domain of the company who supposedly sent the email.

Sometimes the email may contain a nasty surprise for you. Some phishing emails come with attachments, which if opened may launch a virus attack on your computer. You may see an attachment on the email with a file name of .exe or .zip. An .exe file is a computer program file, while a .zip file is an archive file that can contain programs within it. Either of these attachments, if downloaded, can damage your computer and steal your data. Upon receiving an email with an attachment, if it is a program you did not solicit from your company, you should contact the company directly to inquire if they actually did send the attachment.

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