Beware Mac Phishing Scams

June 2, 2011, By Christian Cawley

You might think that you’re safe using your Apple Mac Mini, iMac or MacBook, cossetted by the warm blanket of a simple user interface running on a computer that is safe from viruses, intrusions and phishing attempts.

Sadly, you would be horribly wrong.

While viruses and intrusions are on the increase for Mac computer users, phishing has been a threat since day one. There is nothing platform specific about phishing, it needs no specialist software and can even be used to steal your personal details without any software at all.

Most commonly, however, phishing makes use of emails addressed to you requesting that you act in a particular way.

Examples of Mac Phishing Emails

Typical phishing emails include those that attempt to get you to look after money for a Nigerian prince (or a variation on this) as well as the plethora of spoofed emails that claim to come from PayPal, Amazon, eBay or a variety of banks.

The idea of these spoof messages (where the email is styled to look like it comes from the source it claims to come from) is to take you to a similarly spoofed website (often only identifiable by checking the complete, very long URL) and prompt you to enter your personal account details for that service.

This information is then stored, along with your email address, and identity fraud can then take place.

One of the worst things you can do when you receive a phishing email on your Mac is to reply to it, even if it is to tell the sender to “get lost.” Phishing emails are sent out in bulk to thousands of email addresses at a time, many of which might be defunct, and it only takes one working email address to yield results for fraudsters. Your email address is worth money to these scammers, and by replying you let them know that your account is working and monitored.

Protect Your Mac from Online Fraud

To avoid falling for this type of scam you need to take advantage of the free security tools that are available for email clients and web browsers. The first thing you should look for is a free email scanner. ClamXav is available from www.clamxav.com and is a good place to start.

The next thing you should use is a browser that can detect whether or not the website you are being directed to is legitimate. Since 2008 Apple has added anti-phishing functionality into Safari, but this feature isn’t as extensive as the one included in Mozilla Firefox for Mac. For this reason your safest bet for browsing safely is with the Firefox browser on your Mac, available from www.mozilla.org.

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