Do not open that link! How to avoid phishing scams

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Many organizations are tweeting, posting and talking about how to protect personal information and devices. It is not just about protecting your desktop. Viruses and scams via mobile networks are on the rise. With kids having their own devices, they need know how to recognize online scams.

Some scams are obvious. Most adults know not to send money to the Nigerian Prince or their neighbors stuck in Europe. But sometimes, these scams are more subtle. Emails from a trusted source may contain harmful links. This month, I received this email from my cable service.

Dear Comcast Member,

The credit card we have on file for your Comcast Internet service was declined when we attempted to bill you on 10/09/2012 for your most recent service fees.

For this reason, your service could be suspended. Please visit our Account Information pages,

located at (LONG LINK) and update your credit card information as soon as possible.

Once your credit card information is updated, you will be charged immediately, as soon as payment is received.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to continuing to serve you.


Comcast Customer Care

On first glance, this seems legitimate. A curious kid, receiving an email from their phone company or cable service, may be tempted to click on the link. But, this type of email is phishing. Phishing is a method used by Internet scammers who imitate real companies in email messages to entice people to share user names, passwords, account information or as in this case credit card numbers.

Looking online, I found lots of other people had received this email. I wondered why Comcast did not send out a warning to customers. Well, this was probably due to the frequency of these types of scams. Below is a list of Comcast’s top phishing scams. As you can see, Comcast would have to send out a warning email every day.

Parents need to make sure everyone who is using the family computer or has an internet enabled device knows the rule “when in doubt, throw it out”. They should also learn the signs of a potential phishing scam.

  • An email asks for personal information including passwords. Real companies do not ask for this via email.
  • The link is not to the company website. In my case, the link was long and did not begin with
  • The email does not address you by name. This was addressed to Comcast Members not to the name on the account.
  • It wants you to react right away. Threatening to turn off cable is way to get you to click without thinking.

Kids should report all emails asking for information to their parents. Parents can go directly to the company website and check the account. If it is a phishing scam, you can report it to (part of US Homeland Security) as well as to the company.

Need more information or security tips. Check out Microsoft Security on phishing scams and StaySafeOnline for information on National Cyber Security Awareness month.