Pharming is a term that many people learn about the hard way. You may also have heard about the dangers of going to websites that are pornographic, contain warez (illegal downloads) or are underground-related. When you visit these sites, whether intentionally, accidentally or unknowingly, you are at risk to pharming, or having your important and sensitive information stolen from your computer.
Pharming is an evolved or advanced form of phishing. It compromises your computer and the data in it. If you receive an e-mail from someone telling you that your Paypal account information needs to be updated, for instance, and that you need to click on the link they provided in the e-mail, that is a form of phishing. They are trying to phish (“fish” as in to get something out of you) for your Paypal information. The link they provide won’t send you to Paypal’s site; it’s actually a link that will send you to their own website where they will try to trick you into entering your Paypal information.
Pharming happens when scam artists build several fraudulent sites. When you go to one of these sites, you’ll sometimes be redirected to another fraudulent site and then to another and then another. It’s important to mention that web sites related to financials (e.g., banks, stock sites, Paypal, etc.) are the main targets of pharming scam artists.
It does not matter how careful you are online. It is extremely hard to pinpoint pharming scam sites because you won’t always know it just by scrutinizing the site. There are programs (e.g., antivirus software and computer protection programs) being developed to help identify pharming scams but many pharming scams are still able to evade many of these security programs.
Have you gone to a site and a security warning popped up saying that the site you just entered has an unsigned certificate? Did you continue to visit the website in spite of the warning? Did you wonder why you got a security warning regarding an unsigned certificate? Did you know that ignoring that warning might mean getting your identity stolen? People who engage in pharming create websites that are exact duplicates of real sites, graphics, text, certificates and all. If you happen to visit one of these websites and ignored the security warning, you are literally handing over your identity to scammers once you input personal information on the site.
There are ways you can protect yourself from phishing scams. For instance, before you enter any sensitive information on a website, make sure that it is the real website. Click File > Properties in your browser. It must be an actual website domain name and not just an IP address. Don’t rely on the address bar because pharming scammers have ways of cloaking URLs. In addition, if you are about to purchase something, look for a yellow lock at the bottom right corner or at the top of your browser. This means that the page is on an SSL page, meaning your information will be transmitted on a channel that is securely encrypted. Lastly, make sure that your antivirus software is regularly updated.
Use common sense and don’t ignore any uneasy feelings you may have when you’re browsing websites. If a site is asking you to provide them with personal information, think twice before proceding. When you take a few extra minutes to exercise caution, you protect yourself in the long run.
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