Phishing is when there is a fraudulent attempt to acquire sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy person or business in an apparently official electronic communication, such as an email or an instant message.

It is estimated that between May 2004 and May 2005, approximately 1.2 million computer users in the United States suffered losses caused by phishing, totaling approximately $929 million USD. U.S. businesses lose an estimated $2 billion USD a year as their clients become victims. Figures for the UK, Canada and Australia are equally as bad.

If you are contacted about an account needing to be “verified” you should either contact the company that is the subject of the email, or could type in a trusted web address for the company’s website into the address bar of their browser, to bypass the link in the suspected phishing message.

Several anti-phishing software programs are available. The programs work by identifying phishing contents on websites and emails; anti-phishing software may be integrated with web browsers and email clients as a toolbar that displays the real domain name for the visiting website.

Spam filters also help protect users from phishers, because they reduce the number of phishing-related emails that users receive. There is also a solution that leverages a blend of psychology and technology to help prevent users from falling prey to phishing.

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