Real Consumer Information
RSS feed
Page header

Phishing and Pharming

For Your Personal and Financial Information

Phishing is a scam that uses email or pop-up messages including instant messages to steal your personal financial information. In many instances, the message contains a link that goes to a fake website. The messages seem to come from well-known companies. E-bay and PayPal are two favorites of the scammers. Banks are another favorite. The fake websites look very much like the real websites. "Spear-phishing" is a phishing scam that is targeted to a specific, usually small, group.

Take The MailFrontier Phishing IQ Test II to see how savvy you are about these scams. This test shows how hard it is to distinguish between a real and a fake message.

Here are 3 things to note to avoid being hooked by such scams:

  • Reputable companies and financial institutions, like your credit union and bank, NEVER, EVER send e-mails asking for personal information and account number information they already have on file. Always be suspicious of any request for information that comes from an unsolicited e-mail. When you initiate the online contact with your bank or a reputable merchant, you may provide information to purchase merchandise or handle your account.
  • Report the scam to the company, using the customer service number or website address from a recent statement. You can send the actual spam to the FTC at
  • NEVER click on the link in an e-mail of this sort, even if it looks legitimate. The link takes you right to the scammers not the real company.

Pharming is similar to phishing but much harder to detect. You don't have to do anything to get "scooped" up by the scam. It works like this. Scammers create a fake, malicious web site that looks like the site of a real company. Then these skilled criminals use Domain Name System (DNS) "poisoning" to redirect your browser to their fake site. In DNS poisoning, the legitimate Internet Protocol (IP) address (numerical address) for a site is replaced by the IP address of the fake site.

Using a toolbar such as Netcraft (works with Internet Explore and Firefox) or the Opera browser that displays the location of the site's host can be helpful in avoiding phishing and pharming scams.

Information Edge links to sites provided by a variety of sources. We review sites for credibility and reliability, but Information Edge, of course, can't control advertising and other links on these sites. We advise ignoring pop-up ads, links to sales of products or services, and the like.