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Phishing: Emails that Appear to be from Genuine Institutions

By: Jack Claridge - Updated: 2 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Phishing Fishing Unsolicited Emails

Recently a new term has been used to describe the practice of sending emails on behalf of genuine Institutions and companies in order for us - as members of the banking and online retailing community - to impart details relating to our bank and building society accounts as well as details of our credit and debit cards.

This term is called Phishing.

What is Phishing?

Phishing - like its recreational counterpart fishing - is the act of trying to catch something; in this case information about you, your bank details and your identity.

Most of these requests for information about your bank account and your bank details will be received via unsolicited emails sent to your email account.

You should be aware that most bank and building societies will never send you unsolicited mails requesting or asking you to address issues relating to your accounts. They will try to make contact with you by telephone or by letter in order to make the relevant changes.

How do they get my Details

This is something of a mystery for a lot of people. Your details are supposed to be kept private however when you subscribe to a website, mailing list or make a purchase online which requires the use of an email address for confirmation purposes, you may be asked if it is acceptable to receive offers from an Institution or their partners.

If you agree to this in effect what you are agreeing to is the distribution of your email address - which is normally sold on - to another individual or company. Marketing companies specialise in the production of email databases for sale which can be used for online marketing, email shots and other campaigns.

However other individuals can buy these lists and use them for their own purposes.

It is important to note that the law now says that emails are not be sent to individuals without first contacting the individual to ensure that it is fine to do so. With this in mind if you do receive emails from unsolicited parties then you should delete them immediately.

Certain free email providers online unfortunately do not adhere to this ruling of British law - simply because these providers are based outside the United Kingdom and do not need to. But it is useful to know that if you are using a desktop email application then emails not requested are considered to be illegal.

Dos and Don'ts

Do remember at all times to have your computer installed with anti-virus software as well as a firewall. This software will help reduce the risk of small programs called Trojans being installed onto your machine and passing on information once a mail with one attached has been opened.

Do not give out details of your bank account, passport, National Insurance number, home address, telephone or any other details that may be used for purposes other than what they are intended for.

When making purchases online make sure the sites you are using are registered with an Institution that can guarantee the purchases. This ensures that if a purchase is bogus or the seller cannot provide you with the goods bought then you have a chance of retrieving your money.

And the most important of all - under no circumstances allow anyone you don't know to have access to your computer. It only takes a minute to transfer data or email information so make sure your computer is password protected and if you are not near it make sure it is switched off.

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