For most, email is a way to keep in touch with their friends, conduct business over a distance, and relay important information quickly. For others, however, it's a moneymaking opportunity. We're talking, of course, about scammers. Whether you have a nice condo on Yonge and Bloor or you barely squeak by in a communal apartment, scammers will go phishing for your information, and through that, your money. If you're not familiar with phishing scams and how they work, this article can help you learn to protect yourself.

Phishing (which is a play on "fishing") is a method wherein a scammer will dangle a piece of bait in front of you and wait for you to take it, after which they will capture your personal information and use it for their personal gain. Phishers often pose as representatives from your bank offering you a 2nd mortgage, imitate stores in which you have accounts, or claim to be security officers at your credit card company. Their messages may come to you over the phone, in an email, or even through instant messaging or text messaging.

The goal of phishing is to collect bank account and credit card information and passwords. Sometimes this information will be used to steal your money outright. Other times it will be used to steal or clone your identity to buy artists prints and real property in your name. Either way, victims of phishing often have a lot of trouble straightening their lives out after they have been exploited, even with the help of the police and their financial institutions.

Phishers are able to fool many customers by cloning or imitating official messages from a bank or credit card company. These messages will contain official looking text and logos. Often they will simply ask you to confirm your password for their records or to re-activate your account by clicking on a link that leads you to a cloned site that looks like your bank site but is run by the scammers. Often they will attempt to scare an individual into responding by claiming that their account has been breached, overdrawn, or hacked.

It is easy to protect yourself from phishers because no bank, credit card company, or other entity will ask you for your password in an email or over the phone. They have access to this information from their end. If in doubt, contact the institution by typing in the true address of your company or phoning them at the number listed on their official documents. DO NOT follow their links or call any numbers they give you. If you receive a phishing email, report it to the institution it is trying to imitate.

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