John's Florida Real Estate Blog


Fishing = Good, but PHISHING = BAD. Protect your bank accounts and others!

A couple of weeks ago one of our new participants on a local online bulletin board I run called me and was concerned when the computer sent him an authentication e-mail with his password in it. He was afraid that his security may have been somehow impaired. I assured him that this was not the case since the message was sent from my computer to only the e-mail address that he had entered when he registered. I believe that helped allieve his main worries.

However, in our discussion, he mentioned that his brother had a Pay Pal account and somehow someone had been able to get access to the money in that account and his brother had been caused some problems due to this. This may be why he was so concerned about his password being sent via e-mai. Some of you may not know, but Pay Pal is company that is used to help people transfer money to other people when they buy things on sites like E-Bay, etc.

A few days after I had spoken with that man, I got a message from Pay Pal warning me about a problem that had occurred with my account and that they needed me to send them my account number, username, and password immediately or they would inactivate my account. I have never had an account with Pay Pal and that makes this e-mail an example of PHISHING. It was pretty obvious in this case since they spelled Pay PaI with a capital I instead of a lower case l at the end.

Now when you are really fishing you go to a lake or river, bait your hook, and cast it into the water. You do not expect to catch all the fish in the lake, but to lure a couple by your hook that will bite it and be caught. Success!

Phishing works similarly, but in this case, you and your money are the prey the Phisher wants to catch. Here is how he does it.

First the Phisher, who may be anywhere in the world, sends out millions and millions of e-mails that look like the come from big companies, usually banks, credit unions, stock brokers, Pay Pal, credit card companies, etc. The pages you see will look EXACTLY like the real bank website. He knows up front that 99% of the people who receive these messages will trash them, but if even just 1% open them and just a few of those people send him personal information, he can illegally make thousands of dollars. Here is how it works.

There will be a message that says that the company has discovered some unusual activity on your account and to protect you they will freeze your funds until you provide them with some confirmation information. ALL A BIG LIE!

You will be asked to click on a link where you will find boxes where they want you to put your username, account numbers, and passwords or PINs (personal identification numbers). DO NOT DO IT! Within seconds after giving then your personal information you will see purchases made in Africa, Russia, China, Brazil, the USA and all around the world. The crooks will be doing all they can to spend your money as fast as possible.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  1. First, understand that banks, the electric company, credit card companies, etc. never will ask you for usernames, account numbers, and passwords via emails on the internet.
  2. If the e-mail is from a company that you do not even recognize and have never done business with, you can be sure that they is a phishing scheme. If you do not have an account with SunTrust Bank, why would they ask you about your account?? You do not have one. Dump this message right in the trash.
  3. Even if the e-mail is from a bank or company that you do have business with, ignore it completely. Definitely do not send them the information they are asking for. If you are a worrier and want to be 100% sure that no problem exists, look on your latest bank statement or in the yellow pages for the phone number of the bank's local branch and call them personally. DO NOT use any of the contact numbers in the e-mail. They could be fakes that go directly to the crooks.

Again, never, never, never, give out your personal information in response to e-mail messages that you receive. These are nearly always scams and if you take the bait you will quickly find your wallet and bank accounts a lot emptier!

For more information you can call me at: 813-783-4444 or e-mail me at: Also let you neighbors know about this type of web scam. Do not let them become victims.

I also invite you to visit my my website where I think you will find a lot of useful information. To get there just click on the following link:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 2 commentsJohn Elwell • February 23 2008 05:34PM


Excellent advise.  Some of these phishing emails look SO authentic.  I received one from saying there was an issue with my last order and to sign on..

Since it was the holidays - I completely believed it... but then it hit me.  This "fake" email came to my work email address.  I have Amazon set up on my personal address.  Sure enough it was a scam to get my username and password!

Posted by James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORSĀ®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes, When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move (Real Living | At Home) over 12 years ago
yep James, and I deal with a lot of senior citizens who are not as up on computers as their grandchildren. I am so afraid that one of them will get it into his or her head to give away information that could ruin them. Wish there were some way to stop the phishers and spammers from being able to send out so many bulk mailings at one time. Though once that 12 million dollar check arrives from Nigeria, I should be okay. Ha, ha.
Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) over 12 years ago

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