What is a Phishing Filter?

By Robin Lewis

Phishing filters are used to help prevent identity fraud by online users. Phishing is a common problem, and many have been tricked by emails that look like they are from official or trusted sites, only to find out that they've just given their information to a scammer. In order to protect themselves from phishing, consumers should be aware of the scams and learn how to avoid being caught up in them.

Phishing

Phishing, pronounced like fishing, is a scam that is designed to get personal identification information from someone for the purpose of using it to access their accounts. Phishing is popular in emails that disguise themselves as being from a user's bank or credit card company.

How Phishing Works

Many times, these emails look very official and often include the logo of the trusted company. These emails can easily trick some consumers into clicking on the links in the email. Through these links, instead of being transferred to the institution's website, they are transferred to the phishing site which then asks them personal information such as account numbers or passwords. Once the answers are submitted, the scammers have the information they need to access the consumer's accounts.

How to Spot Phishing

Some phishing scams are easy to spot. Some use poor grammar or spelling, some use broken English or sound like someone that is not familiar with the language wrote the email, and some have very fuzzy or poor reproductions of a company's logo. These are obvious phishing scams because they stand out as being fake, but sometimes the scammers are very adept at fooling people.

Verifying the Links

Some of the phishing scams out there are very good at imitating trusted sites. There are some that are very carefully thought out and hard to spot, but one way to tell if a link that you are going to click on is real is to check the address of the link before clicking on it. In many browsers, a user can hover over a link with a mouse and the address of the link will show up in the bottom left-hand corner of the browser window. If the address that appears is not from the institution, do not click on it.

Phishing Filters

As phishing scams became more and more prevalent, the software companies started seeing a need for programming that would help consumers recognize these sites, or warn them if a site isn't what it says it is. Phishing filters are pieces of programming that compare the sites that a computer user visits with sites that have been listed in databases as legitimate websites, as well as comparing them to lists that are known phishing sites. A phishing filter will notify the user if it feels that a site is questionable, or if it is a known phishing site.

Where to Get Phishing Filters

Many newer versions of web browsers come with phishing filters built in and when you install them, they will ask you if you want the phishing filter to be activated. The phishing filters are also accessible by using the drop down menus in web browsers such as Internet Explorer. In the tools menu of IE7 or above, a user can click on "Phishing Filter" to do a manual check of any web page that he is currently visiting.