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Phishing, in case you haven’t either seen it or heard of it by now, is basically a certain type of attachment in which an online entity convinces the user to visit a specially crafted Web site in order to capture personal information. Phishing attaches for the months of November and December are usually out of control from the holiday shopping season and it is made painfully apparent judging by some of the stats that are out on one of my favorite new Web sites, PhishTank.

PhishTank is part of an online community that has joined together in order to combine their efforts to expose phishing scams in any way, shape or form. The site is chock full of resources. I spent a better part of the morning on the site just looking over the information and tools the site had to offer in its fight against online menaces.

From PhishTank’s home, you can quickly access all of the tools necessary to educate yourself about phishing, how and where you report it and even how to verify the scam. You can even see such things, including what is currently the most prevalent phishing scam of the month, complete with screenshots of various items.

If you become a registered user of PhishTank (it only requires a valid e-mail address and username), you can forward any e-mail that you think may be a phishing scam to them for a review and verification. It’s very easy to do. You can go directly out to the site and submit a potential phishing scam as well, by filling in a few data fields, such as a URL and notes in their “Add a Phish” portion of the Web site. It all takes no time at all to complete.

In addition to this, PhishTank also has provisions for you, the customer, to view so you can help determine if a submitted site is bogus or not. That’s right, the community is responsible for “verifying” whether or not a scam is legitimate. Not sure if you are qualified to help? Well, don’t worry about that. You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but if you would like to take a look at things and possibly get involved, there is a help file on the site that will guide you through how you can spot phishing scams like an expert.

As I mentioned before, there is even an area where you can go and search through the database of potential and real phishing scams that PhishTank has on file. The search page has two filter boxes that you can use to specify your search, which will help produce the results you are looking for. For instance, you can do a search for a certain phishing scam and see if it is still active (online) or inactive (offline), as well as, whether or not the phishing scam is a scam at all. It could just be a “false positive,” which is something you have to look out for too.

Thanks to the statistics portion of PhishTank’s Web site, you can quickly view what is happening this month in the world of phishing scams. How many sites were submitted? How many of them were verified? All of these questions and more are answered on the site and they are complete with graphs and charts so you can visually compare the highs and lows over the past month. You can also link out from this page to view previous months in the same format, which makes it very easy to compare the months. This is a great way to show users when to expect higher and lower threat levels by noticing trends over time. Another neat feature of this portion of the site is the monthly statistics of which countries play host phishing sources in an animated atlas. It’s pretty cool and a little eye opening.

There is also a blog that you can view from time to time if you want. It is yet another great resource. It keeps you informed about some of the bigger scams that may be going on and the blog also offers alternatives and other programs that can possibly aid in the containment of phishing scams.

If you are worried about phishing scams, I think this is one site that you want to keep in mind. It will not only keep you out of trouble, but it can also better prepare you to spot these online parasites for what they are and how you can stop them. So, are you ready to join the war on phishing? There’s a spot waiting for you in the tank right next to me. Let’s get ’em!

Until next week, stay safe out there.

~ Chad