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What phishing is and how to avoid it


Phishing is the term used when an internet page or an email pretends to be something they're not, and cheerfully asks you to give them private information, like your credit card information. It's a scam that's much older than the internet, where the bad guys "fish" for information by offering bait. As a general rule, something is offered that is too good to be true, such as a large amount of money given for just being a "loyal customer". They key word here is "offered". The scammers don't give anything.

Make no mistake - phishing is not a Marketing technique, it's a scam. The intention is to cheat people. So if you see something that is obviously a scam, your best move is to just ignore it. I use a junk mail filter for my email, which works great, so I really don't see very many of them anymore. In the early days of the internet, phishing emails and sites were so clumsy that I wondered why anyone believed them. And I mean sites that were supposed to be banks with misspelled words, that sort of thing. I'm a Graphic Designer so I tend to see more errors in layout than most people who aren't obsessed with web design, but really some were just ridiculous.

Nowadays websites and emails that phish can look as sharp as anything. So you can't always trust your eyes. But really, a little bit of common sense goes a long way. Companies don't give out coupons for a lifetime of free meals, and foreign Kings don't really need a perfect stranger to send them money through Western Union.

I've been on the internet since it all began, in the 90s, and so I'm very comfortable there. But even people like me need to tread lightly. I don't click on links that I don't trust, and neither should you. To be fair to the bad guys who creating "phishing" sites, they aren't trying to send your computer a virus, they're just trying to trick you by showing you stuff that isn't true. So if you see something that's really too good to be true, it probably isn't. And that was just as true for your great-great-grandpappy as it is for you. Just walk away.