From the first time I went fishing, as a kid at Lake Delavan in Delavan, Illinois, I was hooked on the sport. While I never owned a boat or expensive tackle, as most true fishing aficionados do, I loved catching the fish. I spent a good part of my childhood reeling in catfish, carp, and other inferior fish like bass and sunfish. While I was never a professional, I could catch my fair share of fish.
I’m not sure that I passed along the love of fishing to all four of my boys. I remember taking our oldest son Charlie fishing for the first time when he was eight years old, and he caught a sixteen pound catfish the first time I cast out the pole for him. I wasn’t in very good shape physically, as I was quite rotund, so the boys had to do a lot of the work. But, we caught lots of fish when we went.
FABULOUS FISHER FOLK
But, each of my boys developed skills early in life to properly fish for catfish from the banks of a lake or river, proper technique for netting the fish, and proper technique for cleaning the fish for eating. I taught my sons very few skills in my life, but cat fishing was one of them.
While I did spend a lot of time fishing with my boys, I never really did teach them the ways of phishing, which is an entirely different way of scamming. I likely should have prepared them better, but I digress.
WHAT IS PHISHING?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines phishing as a scam by which an Internet user is duped (as by a deceptive email message) into revealing personal or confidential information which the scammer can use illicitly. As the use of the Internet has increased each year, the amount of phishing goes up as well.
ALL SORTS OF PHISHING GOING ON
I counted all of the phishing attempts I received in the last twenty four hours in my email inboxes, and I counted thirteen scam messages. These are all the messages that made it through Microsoft’s email filters, which are supposed to catch all of these phishing messages for me. I also had one phishing attempt via Facebook messenger. Many of these phishing attempts came from purported safe and trustworthy sources like Chase Bank, Netflix, PayPal, and the country of Nigeria.
When I was a wee lad, I used to always try to catch the big fish, or, as we called them, the whales. And there are specific phishing attacks targeted the same way. Whaling, in the phishing sense of the word, is when the people that are phishing target large fish in companies or organizations like owners, Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, and Chief Financial Officers. You can’t blame them for going after the big phish.
This is likely the most common form of phishing, as electronic mail has been around forever, so they’ve had time to perfect their methods and techniques. Generally, the people that are phishing will send an email to any email address they can obtain, in hopes that they can convince you to reveal vital personal information, financial information, or give them money. Many times, you can detect this type of message because the person has difficulty communicating in writing, or there are language barriers that keep the message unclear.
Sextortion is another common form of phishing, where the person communicating electronically claims to have photographic or video evidence of the targeted phish in some sort of sexual position, and they demand money in exchange for keeping the information quiet. Another reason you should probably never go fishing naked.
SEARCH ENGINE PHISHING
Hackers can manipulate key words on their web pages and get their pages ranked high in search engines like Google, which would then give them the appearance of legitimacy. This makes it difficult for the average user to determine if the web site they navigated to was the real site or the fake site, which gathers their username and passwords for that site. Banks and other financial institutions are often duplicated to appear legitimate when they are not. Carefully examine the Internet address you navigated to, and when in doubt, don’t use it.
Vishing is similar to phishing but involves the scammer calling you via a voice call. Once they have you on the phone, they attempt to convince you to reveal usernames, passwords, and other information as a form of verification. They may also try to talk you through installing software on your computer as a fix for something that is wrong with it, like a virus. They may also claim to be from the government, and that you need to pay them money instantly to avoid spending time in jail.
In this case, the scammers target specific forms of phish. People like network administrators or system administrators in the computer departments are often targets of this type of phishing. One of the heroes in my life used to go spear fishing for the elusive Ssab, because Bass fishing was illegal.
Smishing attacks are carried out via SMS (Short Message Service) text messages, usually on a cell phone. The smisher attempts to get you to reveal your vital financial or personal information via the text message or a related voice call. I’ve never regretted missing a smishing attack.
As time progresses, the phishermen continue to improve their craft, and it becomes more difficult to distinguish between the real companies, products, and services, and those pretending or faking their way into your wallet. In any case, I wanted to alert you to a “phew” of the “phabulous” ways these “phisherpholk” attempt to swindle you out of your information.
In any case, I hope this introduction into some simple methods they use to phish information from you, and the related stories, will make it easier to remember. I hope you’ll also be able to distinguish the real mussels from the “phake” ones. I’m not phishing for compliments or “phollowers,” but don’t hesitate to “phollow” me at some of the links below: