Last night, I got an email from a friend with the kind of title that makes your heart stop for a moment … Sad News.  Here’s what it said with the names changed to protect the innocent:


This message may be coming to you as a surprise but I need your help.Few days back we made an unannounced vacation trip to Kiev Ukraine.Everything was going fine until last night when we were mugged on our way back to the hotel.They Stole all our cash,credit cards and cellphone but thank God we still have our lives and passport.Another shocking is that the hotel manager has been unhelpful to us for reasons i don’t know. I’m writing you from a local library cybercafe..I’ve reported to the police and after writing down some statements that’s the last i had from them.i contacted the consulate and all i keep hearing is they will get back to me. i need your help ..I need you to help me out with a loan to settle my bills here so we can get back home, our return flight leaves soon. I’ll refund the money as soon as i get back. All i need is $1,950 … Let me know if you can get me the money then I tell you how to get it to me.

Joe Abbegotz

You can probably guess that I didn’t take a look at my checking account to see if I had $1950 to loan poor Joe.  I sent him a note and said, Hey, Joe.  I got this very odd email from your email address.  I’m inclined to think you were hacked.  I mean really, who takes an unannounced vacation in Kiev, Ukraine? From Southern California?  It was a classic example of Phishing and I’m sure, anyone answering in the affirmative would have received the routing information for a bank in Kiev … and their loan would be gone forever.

The most sophisticated Phishing attempts are designed to look like communications from legitimate business, like banks or department stores.  Frequently, they ask the reader to visit a website that is carefully designed to look exactly like the business’ website, but personal information provided will lead to credit card fraud or identity theft.  Other Phishing attempts, like the one my friend received, promise to tell you where to send the information or money once you respond to the email.  Some, like the Google Work-at-Home scam ask for small shipping fees for non-existent work-at-home kits, while others like the Nigerian scam offer promise ridiculous profits for helping non-existent foreign businessmen move funds to the U.S.  Sometimes, the stories seem laughable except that reports that Phishing accounted for losses of 1.5 billion dollars globally in 2012.   The losses due to Spear Phishing, attacks targeting specific companies or organizations, costs much more through loss of proprietary information and secrets.

The Windows Club has an excellent page on tips to avoid being hooked by a Phishing attack.  It starts with being suspicious of anything you receive by email, regardless of whether it appears to come from a source you know or not.  It emphasizes never sending personal information in response to an email or on websites reached through links in emails.  It is all too easy for a Phisherman to create links that look like those of legitimate businesses but take you to phony websites. You can often avoid phony links by copying the link name and pasting it into the address bar of your browser instead of clicking on the link.  Links containing numbers instead of a name or the @ symbol are also suspicious.  Phishing emails often contain bad grammar or spelling and try to convey a sense of urgency to get you to respond without thinking.  You should never do anything online without thinking.  Finally, using a browser with built-in Phishing protection, a good virus scanner and your ISPs email spam filters can help, too.  But in the end, it’s up to you.  Be careful, it’s a jungle out there.

By the way, it’s Top Sites Tuesday #240.  We seem to be collectively running out of thoughts but since my friend Cheryl turned up just now, I’ll add the button.  There are Two Thoughts for Tuesday in here somewhere.  Push it … gently, please … if you enjoyed this post.

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2 Comments on “Phishing”

  1. Trina Says:

    I get so many phishing emails, thanks for the info!


    PS: I plan to be back on schedule soon, it would be nice to be back to blogging more regularly and not getting home to just pass out, get up early and do it again… every day.

  2. cherperz Says:

    Sorry, I am a day late. I am closer to being “clear thinking” today.

    It is getting more difficult to tell the fake from the real. We recently received a similar email from a friend saying he was in London and needed money. This might be a great case for Facebook. Same friend is a daily contributor to FB and we knew he wasn’t in London.

    The one’s that bother me are the Bank of America and Paypal emails saying I need to sign in on their (fake) link. While I would never do it, the emails look exactly like the real thing.

    These types of posts are very important. Seems a lot of people don’t think about these types of communications being scams.

    click..even if it’s late.

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