Phishing is an e-mail fraud method in which perpetrators send cleverly disguised e-mails, supposedly from legitimate and reputable companies, such as financial institutions. The bogus e-mails usually tell recipients that their accounts are in danger of being frozen or suspended.
Recipients are then asked to "confirm" personal information—such as Social Security and credit card numbers, passwords and account user names—by clicking on a link that really takes them to a fake website set up by the thieves to capture this information. Once they have the personal information, thieves can use it to set up new accounts and make unauthorized purchases in their victims' names.
Phishing has become such a huge problem because identity thieves have become very skilled at creating authentic-looking fake e-mails, complete with the logos of well-recognized banks, credit card issuers and online retailers. The thieves continue to devise new ways to steal victims' identity. Other scams include Spear Phishing, Vishing and Pharming.
To protect yourself against the many types of online scams, never reveal any personal information in response to any e-mail, text or phone request, regardless of who it looks like it might have come from. If you think the request may be legitimate, contact the company by calling their phone number listed on your account statement or company website, but NOT by calling the number given in the correspondence.
Other Examples of Online Scams
Spear Fishing - In this online scam, e-mails are sent to a highly targeted list, such as only people who work in a specific company. They may appear to be from the company's president, or another employee.
Vishing - This is short for "voice phishing," another twist on phishing in which e-mails and the telephone are used together to steal sensitive personal information. In most instances, callers reach an automated voice response system that tells them what information (like a bank account or credit card number) is supposedly needed to maintain their account or fix the "problem."
Pharming - In this scam, victims are redirected to imposter Web sites when they type in valid Web addresses. Hackers are able to do this by exploiting a shortcut some Internet Service Providers have instituted to speed up Web browsing.
To protect yourself, make sure that the page you land on (if you will be providing any sensitive information to the site, such as credit card numbers) is a secure Web page that uses encryption to protect data transfer. The Web address for secure Web pages begins with "https" rather than "http."
Tools like NetCraft Toolbar and McAfee SiteAdvisor can help you identify websites that are not legitimate and are available for download at no cost to you. [NOTE: Without limiting the generality of similar terms contained in our Legal Notices, HANCOCK BANK AND WHITNEY BANK DO NOT MAKE ANY REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OF ANY CONTENT, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, ANY INFORMATION OR SOFTWARE PROGRAMS THAT YOU MAY DOWNLOAD FOR THE THIRD-PARTY WEBSITE.]