Phishing.  It may sound like the sport of pulling finned creatures out of water and the name of the rock band’s latest tour but we assure you it is not.

What is it

Phishing is a way to lure computer users into providing sensitive information so a cyberthief can steal your identity.  Some scams are easy to spot but some look like legitimate emails from trusted friends.

What does it look like?

Have you ever gotten an email from someone in your network saying that their wallet and passport were stolen while traveling and requesting money to get home? Yeah, that’s a phishing technique.

Sure it looks legitimate.  An email from a friend that sounds rather convincing however, you may have seen that friend at school drop off or know from their Facebook status that they really aren’t stuck in some international destination.

How does it happen?

Hackers had infiltrate a user’s email account by guessing the password and sending a message to the entire contact list in the hopes that someone is fooled into wiring money or providing credit card or bank information as a way to help.

According to Microsoft’s Online Privacy & Safety site, phishing emails often ask for personal data or direct you to websites or phone numbers to call where you will be asked for personal information.  They can appear to come from friends, banks, include logos to trusted institutions, and links to seemingly real websites and can contain pleas for help, claim that you’ve won a grand prize, or ask you to verify account information.

What can you do to prevent it?

Be savvy enough to recognize possible phishing scams by questioning the legitimacy of emails.  If you accidentally click on a link, logo, or URL, be sure to run the free ChicaPC-Shield to delete any spyware that may have installed itself on your machine.