Buyer Beware: FBI issues warning on "spear phishing"

As if it wasn't enough to worry about plain old phishing scams, the FBI today issued a warning about a more malicious type called spear phishing.

This type of scheme is not new, but the FBI warns it is on the rise. Spear phishing differs from regular phishing in its approach. Rather than use a massive email blast, spear phishing attacks choose smaller, selected groups that share something in common. That could be anything from a workplace, to a bank to a website everyone purchased from.

Using emails that simulate authentic ones, the spear phishers -- as is the case in regular phishing attacks -- concoct a plausible reason why you need to urgently provide personal information. Using links in the email, you are then guided to look-a-like, phony sites where you are asked for personal and financial information. Because the spear phishing attacks are more targeted, they also can be more insightful and offer more compelling reasons to be lured in.

In addition, some of the spear phishing attacks, according to the FBI, also try to get you download malware which can hijack your computer or be used to steal personal information.

As is the case with any scams of this type, remember that it is highly unlikely that any legitimate company or agency would request sensitive information from you via email. And, as a general rule, don't follow links in emails or use the provided phone numbers. Go directly to the established web address of the business or agency or call their published phone number.

The number of people falling for these sorts of scams is on the rise. Be on guard and avoid becoming a statistic.
For more information about safeguarding yourself from phishing scams, Microsoft has a helpful site, and the FBI has a site offering advice on protecting your computer.

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