How to Recognize Phishing and Card Verification Scams Online

By Ryan C. Williams

Keep your eyes open and you’ll avoid a lot of what the internet has to throw at you attempting to access your passwords and personal information.

Basics of phishing scams

Eventually, you’ll receive an e-mail that says it’s from your bank, eBay, PayPal, or a similar website announcing a problem with your account. Invariably, the e-mail offers a handy link to click, saying that you must enter your username and password to set things in order.

Don’t do it, no matter how realistic the e-mail and website may appear. You’re seeing an ugly industry called phishing. Fraudsters send millions of these messages worldwide, hoping to convince a few frightened souls into typing their precious account name and password.

How do you tell the real e-mails from the fake ones? It’s easy, actually, because all these e-mails are fake. Finance-related sites may send you legitimate history statements, receipts, or confirmation notices, but they will never, ever e-mail you a link for you to click and enter your password.

If you’re suspicious, visit the company’s real website by typing the web address by hand into Internet Explorer’s Address bar. Chances are good that the real site won’t list anything wrong with your account.

Basics of card verification scams

Card verification scams are usually done by phone or via e-mail. The person calling or writing says that he needs to verify your credit card information for your account at some online merchant or pay service.

He tells you that the server containing the credit card numbers has been hacked into and all the data on the credit card accounts has been lost, or he tells you that he’s verifying your information to make sure that it’s current. The caveat is that if you don’t provide the information, he’ll cancel your account.

If the scam is done by e-mail, the URL provided takes you to a site set up by the thieves, and when you enter the information to “verify” your credit card number, name, and expiration date, they capture the information on their server.

Then — you know what happens — your card is used to make fraudulent charges. When the scam is done by phone, the thief writes down all the information needed to use your credit card for fraudulent purposes.

To avoid this scam, don’t give the thieves the information either on the phone or online.