Phishing is the most widely known form of fraud. It typically involves someone sending an email that appears to be legitimate from a reputable source. It may contain real information, including a company logo and branding, or even personal information gleaned from your social networking site. These emails then urge you to take action — e.g., click on a link, open an attachment or respond to a message.
There are two primary types of phishing: broad phishing, where the attacker casts a wide net and hopes to “hook” one or more victims, and spear phishing, where the attacker carefully researches their victims using publicly available information in order to make the message appear more legitimate.
Phishing attempts typically:
- Pretend to be from banks and other financial institutions, entities that process payments or individuals with an offer that’s “too good to be true”
- Appear convincing due to copycat logos, fonts and other graphic elements
- Include a link to an illegitimate webpage where you’ll be asked to enter your personal or account information
Phishing attacks may also occur over the phone.
Malware includes spyware, viruses and other types of malicious software that are installed on your computer, smartphone and other devices without your authorization. Malware typically collects information about you — the passwords you use, the websites you visit — simply by watching you type or surf the web. Malware may also take over your computer for nefarious purposes such as sending email you didn’t write or spreading computer viruses.
Malware is typically installed through:
- Malicious websites that attack computers with out-of-date operating systems or antivirus software
- Links in pop-up ads
- Shareware and other downloadable software
- Deceptive security software offers
Computers with malware may:
- Operate slowly
- Be inundated by pop-ups
- Redirect users to URLs different from those entered
- Include unknown toolbars and icons
- Display out-of-the-blue error messages
If you suspect your computer has been infected with malware, take the necessary steps to remove the unwanted software from your computer.
Identity theft involves the impersonation of an individual through the fraudulent use of his or her personal and account information — e.g., driver’s license, Social Security number, bank account and other numbers, as well as usernames and passwords.
Identity thieves obtain information in a number of ways:
- From the trash
- By stealing mail, purses and other personal items
- By copying credit card or other information during a transaction
- Through phishing attacks
- By submitting false address changes
More information on identify theft and protecting your identity can be found at these websites:
Learn more about fraud and how you can spot it at onguardonline.gov.