So you've probably heard of the term phishing, not to be confused with fishing (obviously my favorite sport), but how many people know how to recognize a phishing scam and how not to get caught on the hook? Get it...hook? Okay, so I'm not a comedian but I can provide you with simple things to look for which will help you avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term phishing, thieves send e-mails posing as legitimate entities and use fake (but very legitimate looking) Web sites to obtain your personal information, such as an account number, user name, password, social security number, and other personal information they can use to steal your money and your identity. Below are a few common phishing scams and tips to help keep you safe:

Sample scams:

  • Request for donations to political campaigns or disaster funds via e-mail -- rule of thumb, do your homework here. Use the Internet to research the specific campaign or fund and call the campaign office to ask how you can make a contribution. You might want to refer to the e-mail you received and ask if it's legit.
  • E-mails indicating a problem or a request to update your financial accounts -- in this scam, thieves direct victims to follow a link or call a number to update an account or correct an account problem. The link directs the victim to a fake Web site or message that appears to be real. Instead, the site allows the thief to steal any personal information that is provided. Many times the scam will intentionally deceive the recipient by saying, "this request is being made to help increase your security and safety." Don't be fooled by this scam.
  • Prize sweepstakes or lottery schemes -- thieves send e-mails that say you have won a sweepstakes or the lottery, but to receive a lump sum payout, you must pay the taxes and processing fees upfront. Thieves direct individuals to call a telephone number to initiate a letter with more instructions.

So to avoid these and other phishing scams, follow these safety tips:

Tip 1 - Be suspicious of any e-mail, phone call or text message that asks for your personal account information, such as user name, password, account number. Phone calls, text messages, instant messages, or Web logs that appear to come from a reliable source may not always be authentic.

Tip 2 - Be aware that legitimate companies and financial institutions will NEVER ask you for password information over the phone or e-mail.

Tip 3 - Many businesses, including Comcast, will NEVER ask for billing or payment information through e-mail.

Tip 4 - When doing financial transactions online, always make sure you use a secure server when submitting credit card information or banking online. To make sure you're using a secure server, check the beginning of the web address in your browsers address bar - it should be https:// rather than just http://

Tip 5 - Contact your bank or credit card company if you think you may have replied to a fraudulent e-mail with sensitive personal information.

Tip 6 - If you're an Xfinity Internet customer, make sure you download the Comcast Toolbar that includes anti-phishing and anti-spyware technology. The toolbar is available to you for no additional cost and it's an added level of protection to help keep your computer protected from possible phishing scams and spyware. The toolbar also includes other cool features to help enhance your online experience.

Are you aware of any phishing scams that I haven't mentioned? If so, please share.