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Fraud Prevention

Phishing for Your Dollars

January 10, 2010

Phishing, also call brand spoofing, is a form of Internet fraud in which e-mail messages are used to lure the unsuspecting to web sites that are replicas of sites used by legitimate businesses. These web sites are used to trick users into divulging credit card numbers, bank account information, and passwords that will be used to commit fraud.

Phishing attacks normally are initiated through an e-mail. It will come disguised as a message from your financial institution or a familiar Internet merchant. Even though the message looks legitimate, it may not be.

How can one tell the real thing from the fake? Here are some things to look for:

Warning Sign#1: Soliciting Personal Information by E-Mail

Financial institutions and reputable on-line retailers do not send e-mails asking for personal information. Any e-mail that claims to be from a reputable source but asks for such data is most likely a phishing expedition.

Warning Sign #2: Badly Written E-Mail

Read the message closely. A professional company such as e-Bay or Amazon will not issue any communication containing basic grammatical and spelling errors. A high proportion of phishing e-mails contain such fundamental errors. For example:

Warning Sign #3: Hidden Addresses & Sources

Phishing attacks redirect you somewhere other than where they claim to be going. Check to see if the web site you reach by clicking on the address in the e-mail is the same as the one shown in the e-mail. If it isn’t, leave the site immediately. Look at the name of the web site shown in the e-mail. Reputable on-line businesses ensure that all their customer accessible web sites contain the company’s name in the address. If you don’t see that, you probably haven’t reached the real web site.

Warning Sign #4: Asking for Personal Data

Receiving an e-mail from your financial institution asking you to go to their web site should set the alarm bells ringing. That is not normal business practice for any credit union or bank. Don’t click on the web address in the e-mail. Call your financial institution to confirm if they have sent you a message.

Warning Sign #5: Threatening Legal Sounding Messages

Consider the source. Would you expect your favorite on-line retailer to send a threatening notice? Not likely. If you receive a threatening e-mail, it probably isn’t legitimate. If you think it may be, call the company instead of responding to the e-mail.

Take Action

The simplest way to protect yourself from phishers is to avoid clicking on any unexpected link in an e-mail message. Do not reply to e-mails soliciting personal information. Having safely ignored the suspicious e-mail, report it.

A significant proportion of on-line fraud goes unreported. Some people are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been taken in. Others simply don’t know what to do.

If you do spot something suspicious, go to the company’s real web site – the one that looks like Most sites have an option on their home page labeled “Contact Us” or something similar. Use that to report the phishing attempt. If you have gone so far as to provide sensitive personal information before realizing you may be a phishing victim, report the matter to your local police and keep a copy of the police report. You may need that documentation to resolve any fraudulent transactions.

Go on-line to, the web site for Reporting Economic Crime On-Line. This site is administered by the National White Collar Crime Centre of Canada and is supported by the RCMP and other law enforcement agencies. You can also call, toll-free to PhoneBusters, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Center at 1-800-495-8501.

Put Your Knowledge to the Test

Think you’re ready to avoid the phishers trying to separate your from your money? Take the anti-phishing challenge by going to

Protect your identity!

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