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How can I minimize the possibility of being caught by a phishing scam?

The primary responsibility for protecting yourself from phishers lies with YOU. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Be on guard
    Be wary of any email with an urgent request for personal, account or financial information. Unless the email is digitally signed (a method of authenticating digital information), you can't be sure it is authentic.
  • Don't fill out a form on a Web site unless you know it is secure.
    You should communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information only through a secure Web site or over the telephone. To ensure that you're on a secure Web server, check its address in your browser's address bar. It should begin with "https" rather than just "http." In addition, there should be a symbol such as a padlock or key, usually at the bottom of your browser window (not in the Web page window). Double click on the symbol to see the security certificate for the site and make sure that it matches the site you think you're visiting. But beware - a scammer may also use a secure Web site.
  • Regularly check your bank, credit and debit card statements (paper and online).
    Verify each account at least once a month. Ensure that all transactions are legitimate. If anything is suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date.
    Make sure that you have applied the latest security patches and updates. If you use the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, go to and download a special patch relating to certain phishing schemes.
  • Install and maintain antivirus and anti-spyware software
    Some phishing email may contain software that can track your activities, disrupt your computer or simply slow it down. Detect, manage and delete these threats by installing effective antivirus software and antispyware and keeping it updated, either automatically or by downloading updates manually from the manufacturer's Web site. For more information on what is available at NC State, see:
  • Consider installing a phish-blocking toolbar on your Web browser.
    EarthLink ScamBlocker is part of a free browser toolbar that alerts you before you visit a page that's on Earthlink's list of known fraudulent phisher Web sites. It's free to all Internet users and can be downloaded at
  • Stay informed.

Content last updated May 3, 2005 by dlschmid
Page last modified September 13, 2007 by cawalker

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