Gone phishing: A bit of prevention, a byte of cure
Imagine you have served more than 20 years in the military, received numerous commendations, and have built up a level of trust with your peers. You have become everything you want to be—perhaps even a bit more—and met every challenge head on and with success.
Then, someone steals your identity. They use it for profit while leaving devastation in their wake. And they’re doing it under your name. It’s called “identity theft,” and it happens every day to individuals throughout the military and civilian communities.
For companies, “phishing” is similar to identity theft. The difference is that a phishing scam doesn’t seek to rip off a company, but instead uses the good reputation and name of a company to rip off consumers. These scams are dangerous, not always easy to identify, and even the most intelligent and cautious consumers can fall victim.
The way it works
Phishing is a way to get people to share vital information, usually financial in nature, and usually via e-mail. The trick is that the phisher uses a real logo, and the e-mail address appears as if it’s from a legitimate and well-known company. E-bay, PayPal, Amazon … all have had, and continue to have, their name used by phishers. Even the Better Business Bureau has had its brand stolen and used in phishing scams.
Why companies care
A company’s “brand” is more than just its logo. It includes position in the market (McDonalds or Wal-Mart), reputation (Rolex or Ferrari), or how a name became the standard for everything else (Kleenex or Post-It Note). Many companies spend a great deal of time building their brands, and some brands are, in and of themselves, valued in the billions of dollars.
When someone takes that brand and uses it illegally, it tarnishes the brand’s image and can decrease its value. It can also lead to higher prices for consumers due to legal action, tighter security for Web sites, or legitimate communications with customers to inform them of an ongoing scam.
Basically, phishing scams cost everyone money, not just their victims.
The following are a few ways to protect yourself from phishing scams based upon recommendations from The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), a group of individuals and companies that fight against online fraud.
You can find more information on this issue at www.antiphishing.org. And, one last piece of advice:
Your help is needed
The easy thing to do is just delete any phishing e-mail you receive. Doing so, however, won’t make the problem go away, since no one else will know what you received, where it actually came from, and who is responsible. For this reason, it’s absolutely imperative that consumers report the phishing e-mails they receive, and it’s quite easy to do:
By reporting these messages, you help build up a database of offenders, provide valuable information that can stop new types of attacks, and save companies and consumers millions of dollars.
Remember, phishing scams affect everyone—military and civilian, rich and poor, young and old, company and customer. But by taking a few steps to protect yourself and reporting the messages you receive, you can make a difference and help put phishers out of business.
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