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Protect yourself against phishing

A credit card with a hook through it.

If you're a busy person who's always on the go, you probably check your email on your phone. Gartner reports that almost 75% of smartphone owners use their devices to check their email. And if you're really on the go, you read your email quickly. In fact, Movable Ink's US Consumer Device Preference Report of 2014 via Email Monday states that most mobile users only spend about 10 seconds to view each message. 10 seconds isn't a long time especially if you're multitasking. How many of you are guilty of reading your email while walking down the hall, sidewalk or cafeteria?

Combine the quickness of our culture plus the growth of phishing, and you've got an increased risk for identity theft. Phishing (pronounced like fishing) is the activity of defrauding an online account holder of financial information by posing as a legitimate company.

According to a Google study, phishing emails work 45% of the time. Typically, these scams are obvious. The email will contain numerous spelling errors or words that are out of place. But sometimes, if you're not paying close enough attention, you'll be dangerously convinced into providing confidential information.

An iTunes phishing email

Take for instance this email I received a few weeks ago. It looks legitimate and there's even a recognizable logo. But, I knew I hadn't purchased anything from iTunes in several weeks, so this message alarmed me. Look at the third paragraph: "It was only sent to alert you in case you did not initiate the download yourself." I instantly panicked and thought someone else had my credit card information and was making purchases. This message made me stupidly reactionary. I followed the instructions on the rest of the message and before you know it, I was verifying payment details that had not in fact been compromised. I quickly realized my mistake but it was too late. I'd given these scammers confidential financial information. Thankfully my credit card company canceled my card and sent me a new one, but what if my gut instinct didn't set in? What if I was new to mobile email and didn't think twice?

Next time you see a suspicious email, slow down and think twice. If you're uncertain about the message; call the sender, speak to a customer service representative and verify the request asked. Lastly, as tax season is underway, the IRS is warning folks to be aware of identity theft via email. Read Forbes' article about it here.

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