If you don’t know what ‘phishing’ is, it’s time to make yourself aware. ‘Phishing’ is a common technique used by scammers today.

Scammers use phishing to try to obtain information from an unsuspecting victim illegally. The way it works is the person doing the phishing sets up a fake website or sends out an email claiming to be from a legitimate organization, asking you to input your personal information and bank account number. The’90s saw the first traces of this scam, but it’s still popular today.

More advanced identity thieves often make their websites and emails appear like a legitimate company and even copy the look and logo of existing companies. The hope is the victim will have already done business with the company, hence trusting whatever ‘company’ sends them information and following the prompts to input their information.

Consumers aren’t the only ones affected by phishing scams. Business owners can be targets too, especially if they do business online. Because such online scams exist, consumers are wary to make online purchases, fearing their information might be stolen and used. The Federal Trade Commission works to prevent and prosecute such crimes and wants consumers to be vigilant when working with their personal information online.

Not every website can be trusted, even though most credit card companies accept online applications. Before submitting any sort of online application, check the company’s reputation and make sure they’re a legitimate company. The Better Business Bureau rates companies based on their track record and allows consumers to make complaints. Even if you don’t find anything bad about a company, that doesn’t mean everything is fine. Do your research and find out for yourself.

A site using a secure server is also an important tip. A safe site stands out from fraudulent ones if you know what to look for. First, the URL of the site’s address should begin with https:// which is standard for all secure sites. There might also be a pad lock icon at the bottom right hand side of your browser window. When the tiny icon is in the ‘lock’ position, this indicates you’re on a secure site.

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