Pharming is a technique thieves use to obtain your personal financial information without your knowledge. A thief would first infect your computer with a virus either by sending you an email or by installing software on your computer when you visit his/her website. The installation typically occurs without your knowledge, but it could also be installed as part of something you choose to install from a website. Once your computer is infected, the virus would send you to a fake site that looks almost identical to your chosen website. Then the pharmers "harvest" your user name, password and other personal information without you even realizing it.
Pharming is more sophisticated than phishing because, while phishing requires you to click on a link and/or respond to an email, pharming happens when you go through the usual process of entering a website address into your browser.
Follow these instructions to help minimize the risk posed to you through pharming.
- Run up-to-date antivirus protection and anti-spyware regularly on your computer.
- Install personal firewalls.
- Do NOT enter information onto pages without a lock or key icon at the bottom of the browser. This icon only appears when you go to a website that uses security certificates.
- Look for anything unusual in the website's address or URL.
- Browse the website for incomplete links, as identity thieves might not have correctly created all the different links and layers.
- If the website looks irregular or requests different login information than before, this might be a red flag that you are experiencing a "pharming" attack. If you feel uncertain about a site, telephone the company for verification.
If you've been pharmed, here are some steps to take:
- Contact the company that has been spoofed.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, telephone 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357), visit their website at www.ftc.gov, or write to the FTC at CRC-240, Washington, D.C. 20580.
- File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.