Phishing is an internet term used for a certain kind of modern crime performed over the internet. It basically involves people masquerading as something harmless, like a bill collector or online survey taker, in an attempt to gather sensitive information and/or insert harmful programs like worms, spyware, and viruses into your computer.
More often than not, children are the biggest security breach in this case. While adults have often been victims of phishers as well, children are often in a greater area of danger because of their inexperience and lack of knowledge. As in the old days, teaching your children to defend themselves is one of the best thigns you can do to avoid this problem. Here are a few things to do:
1) Explain Phishing to Your Kids - let your children know about phishing. Explain to them that people CAN pretend to be your business associates or government representatives online, and that they should NEVER give out any information to someone they don't know.
2) Drill Your Children in Anti Phishing Procedures - aside from refusing to give information, treat this as you would the old case of what you teach your children to do when approached by strangers: that they should contact you if you're available, or play safe and run away (go offline and disconnect the internet) if the stranger is persistent. Also remember that phishers can come in many forms, even over something as harmless seeming as an online game.
2) Install Simple Firewalls and a Computer Activity Monitor - these two programs are essential. While they may not prevent the actual act of a person getting information from your kids via phishing, they provide their own security measures as well. Firewalls insure that, in case your children accept a hermless seeming survey form, no viruses or worms get inserted into your PC. Also, in the even that a phisher manages to get information from your kids, a system activity monitor program will allow you to trace what happened while you were gone, so that you can forward the recorded information over to your local police if you wish to have them investigate what happened.
3) Know and Teach your Children about Alternate Phishing Methods - Phishing does not simply involve people trying to access your information by contacting you and your children online. There are other, more indirect methods that they can employ, so make sure your children (and you yourself!) keep aware of the following:
3-a) Link Name Manipulation - this is a common trick used by some phishers. They take the name of a famous and trustworthy site and alter it's name slightly to appear, at a casual glance, like the original site. A common trick used is to substitute a small letter "L" for a capital "i" in the name, or to replace a capital "o" with a zero "0". Aside from these simple naming tricks, placing an extension at the end or middle of a URL, like say, sitename.com.realname.com, is another common way of masking a hidden site. These sites will often sport a front page that looks almost exactly like the home page of the site they're mimicking, and as soon as you enter your user name and password, the phishers will have it on file and you're in trouble.
3-b) Phone Phishing - sometimes, in an offer to "validate" themselves, phishers will offer to call the victim's home to "prove" that they exist and have a "physical office" (As if you could see that over a phone! You'd be surprised at the number of people who fall for this though). As above, remind your children that this does NOT prove anything, and they should avoid any offers of such contact. Under no circumstances are they to give the home number, and if the caller already knows it and calls but you have caller ID, have them take the number down on paper for the authorities.
4) Anti Phishing Programs - there are a few licensed anti phishing programs that interact with most major firewalls. Get the latest one. These will have the names and locations of known phishing sites, as well as the programs commonly used by phishers to build their sites. These licensed programs also update themselves from their own secure websites on a constant basis to keep up to date with any changes and new information. This added security acts like a firewall or antivirus program but is dedicated to blocking, detecting, and tracing phishers.