Phishing: it’s a newer term that you might not be familiar with yet. In the years since the information superhighway turned into the World Wide Web, new words have sprung up specifically to describe certain activities that only take place online. The Federal Trade Commission defines phishing as the act of thieves impersonating businesses to obtain personal or financial information. Phishing schemes have become more prevalent as online activity has exploded in the new millennium.
Whether you’re tech savvy or an Internet novice, it’s important to understand that phishers employ a wide range of schemes where they creatively attempt to capture your personal or financial information and commit fraud.

Phishers are criminals who may use different techniques to fraudulently steal your personal and/or financial information. Most often, criminals request your personal information via email, often using names and familiar sites of a reputable company. Many of the most successful phishing schemes layer new technology onto old devices and requests for information, now made more convincing than ever by veneers of web and electronic coding that make them appear more authentic than ever before.

Phishing schemes come in many guises. These could include social engineering and/or computer hacking schemes. A social engineering scheme occurs when a criminal requests information from you via email. These often attempt to resemble update requests from retailers or products that you use or access online. You’re asked to input your information into a form that strikingly resembles a well-known website, and while it appears to be trustworthy, it is not. Carefully consider supplying any information to a retailer or other entity online outside of the secured servers that support their websites – email transmissions aren’t behind these protected barriers.

Computer hacking schemes occur when your personal computer is hacked with unauthorized software to redirect users to websites where personal and financial information is stolen. This is sometimes known as malware—short for ‘malicious software’—and categorized as such because of its malicious intent.

Since phishing is a form of identity theft, it can adversely affect your credit. Consider the following to be wise when spotting phishing schemes:

  • Be careful of any email that requests personal, sensitive or financial information. Reputable companies do not ask for sensitive information via email, so you should think twice before entering any information requested.
  • Review URL addresses if you are being redirected via a link in an email. Question whether the address is correct. Determine whether it is secure. If you are not sure, retype the address into new search to make certain you are using an authentic and legitimate site.
  • Look for the obvious. Review the email and pay close attention to anything you find suspicious. Emails that promise to make a payment after you submit bank account and Social Security numbers and other sensitive information should be an easy red flag.

Remember, in order to keep safe, be smart about how you share your personal information online, make sure you trust the site you are being redirected to, and trust your instincts- especially when the requests seem suspicious in nature.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.


Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company. © 2015, Inc. All rights reserved. (