University of Georgia
personal computer most
likely contains keys to your money and your life. And they're
vaults. Computer experts say following a few basic tips, though,
and more people
are becoming victims of computer phishing when they could easily
it," said Bill Blum, a senior systems specialist with the
Georgia College of Agricultural and Sciences. "Just as they
do in the
physical world, scam artists on-line develop new and more
sinister ways to
"Phishing" is a play
on "fishing," or casting out hooks in hopes of
enticing someone to
bite. It's an attempt to get financial information from you,
These e-mails most often
direct you to a false Web site. "For example," he
said, "you may
get an e-mail that appears to come from your banking institution
are having a problem with your account. You click on the URL, go
to the Web
site and key in your password information."
"You have just given them the first chink in your armor to
identity theft on you," Blum said.
phishers gain access
to your bank information, they can search further for credit
card numbers and
your Social Security number, he said.
How can you
tell whether a
site is truly your bank's Web site?
"Secured portions of
sites like banking sites have URLs that begin with https,"
"The 's' stands for secure. You should also see a
graphic, usually in the lower right corner of your screen, when
you're on a
secured site. If the graphic is an open lock, you're on an
guarantee the site is safe. "But it's a major step in the
direction," he said.
you can further
protect yourself from phishing by never responding to requests
information in e‑mails or pop‑up windows.
he said, "call the institution that claims to be the sender
of the e‑mail
or pop‑up window before you respond."
Web sites by
typing the URL into your address bar. Never access it by
clicking on the URL in
To make sure
you aren't a
phishing victim, Blum said, routinely review your credit card
statements for errors. The sooner you find them, the sooner you
can take action
to correct them.
of your personal information to the proper authorities as soon as
possible," Blum said. "Typically, the credit-reporting
should contact are Equifax, TransUnion and
to secure your
system, he said, are:
program and keep it up‑to‑date. Periodically scan
system for viruses.
2. If you're
Windows‑based system, always perform your Windows critical
(www.windowsupdate.com) with Internet Explorer.
3. Install a
and removal program, such as Ad‑aware
(www.lavasoftusa.com) or SpyBot
(www.safer‑networking.org). "You pick up spyware when
you go to Web
sites or get spam‑type e-mail," Blum said.
"Programs like Ad‑Aware
and SpyBot can help keep spyware away." Both are
4. If you're
through DSL or cable access, install a software firewall.
"It allows you
to control traffic in and out and prevents all other
traffic," Blum said.
"The most common are Windows Firewall (if using Windows
XP), ZoneAlarm and
F‑Secure Client Security." Dial‑up users don't
firewall protection. But it's always helpful.
intimidates you, Blum said, contact a reputable computer
professional. Or just
buy current computer magazines for tips and visit Web sites like
(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)