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Phishing: What is Phishing?

Phishing attacks use e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social security numbers, etc. In phishing schemes, an e-mail is sent to a consumer, directing him or her to a fraudulent Web site, which closely resembles the site for a legitimate organization, which may have wide name recognition or typically inspires trust. The spoofer typically asks consumers to update information, which identity thieves use to commit fraud. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known organizations phishers are able to convince recipients to respond to them.

How to Avoid Phishing Scams

The number and sophistication of phishing scams sent out to consumers is continuing to increase dramatically. As a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. The following is a list of recommendations that you can use to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

  • Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information.

  • Phishers typically include upsetting or exciting (but false) statements in their emails to get people to react immediately.

  • They typically ask for information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social insurance or security numbers, etc.

  • Phisher emails are typically NOT personalized, while valid messages from your bank or e-commerce company generally are.

  • Don't use the links in an email to get to any web page, if you suspect the message might not be authentic.

  • instead, call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web address in your browser.

  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information.

  • You should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone.

  • Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser

  • To make sure you're on a secure Web server, check the beginning of the Web address in your browsers address bar - it should be "https://" rather than just "http://"

What To Do If You've Given Out Your Personal Financial Information

Phishing attacks are growing quite sophisticated and difficult to detect, even for the most technically savvy people. And many people are getting onto the Internet and using email or Web browsers for the first time. As a result, some people are going to continue to be fooled into giving up their personal financial information in response to a phishing email or on a phishing website. If you have been tricked this way, you should assume that you will become a victim identity theft. Please review the advice provided in the identity theft section of this site on what to do if you are in this situation.