Being Phished is Not Fun: Some Tips for Keeping Your Email Account Safe

Granted, I am not the most tech-savvy person using the internet, but I had assumed that I was being reasonably cautious until I received a rude awakening by being on the receiving end of a hacker’s scheme.

The unnerving reality of being phished hit me personally on September 25, 2011 when I clicked on a link within a U.K. site and found myself looking at my open personal email account. Not a happy situation! I was being phished big time, and it threw me for a loop since this type of thing had never happened to me before.

Thankfully, a rep at Comcast sorted it out for me and assisted me in working through the predicament. [To learn more, see: I Was Phished Today; What I Learned About this Problem].

Earlier that month I had received an email supposedly sent from a friend but really sent by someone who had hacked into his account. The link in the email was to a Canadian drug firm. [See: Not Good – A Yahoo! Email Account Has Just Been Hacked – Stolen Password?]

Two days ago I received an email supposedly sent from still another friend that was sent by a hacker who had gotten into her account. The link in this email also was to a Canadian drug firm. I immediately forwarded the email back to her, and suggested that she change her password ASAP and take other precautions.

That same day I learned from a fellow AC writer that her email account had been hacked a couple of months ago. She closed that account and opened another.

What all of this indicates to me is that phishing is much more common than I had thought it to be, the scumbags who do this can be very devious, and most of us are probably rather unsuspecting targets. At least I was.

Some tips that may help you to avoid being phished

1) Know that phishing is common, and that it can (and may well) happen to you. Awareness is the first line of defense.

2) Use a strong email account password, and sign out of your email account when you’re through checking your mail, etc.

3) Consider keeping your list of email addresses elsewhere rather than using the address book on your email account. Hackers want to be in and out quickly, so they grab what they can from the address book and vamoose. If there aren’t any addresses there, it is much harder for them to proceed.

4) Open and read emails more carefully. If there is a link within the email that you can’t clearly recognize or are not expecting to receive, do not click on it, but contact the sender to see if, in fact, that email was sent from him or her.

5) Be as cautious as you possibly can be when using the internet and following links.

6) Change your password immediately if you find that you have been phished, using a strong password. Contact your email account provider to see if further steps are recommended. Two sources for passwords you might explore:

Ultra High Security Password Generator –
Security Guide Password Generator –…

7) Maintain updated anti-virus software. If you have been a victim of phishing, scan for viruses, Trojans and malware, and use Spybot if you have it installed. I have Norton on my computer as it is free with my Comcast account, and it appears to be scanning on a very frequent basis.

8) If you own a website, be sure to have the option to moderate all comments, and delete any from unfamiliar sources without clicking on the links that are in the comments. Just delete, delete, delete rather than approve for publishing – it is much better to be safe than sorry!

Personal experience

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